Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang saved Arsenal’s season – and then admitted he was still haunted by last year’s Europa League disaster.
Two-goal Aubameyang got an 87th winner which helped make amends for missing a gilt-edged last gasp chance when they crashed out to Olympiacos at the same stage 12 months ago.
Aubameyang said: “I think everyone is happy tonight and definitely I had this in my head.
“But this is what gives me power every day. Take the error from the past and transform it to strength. Tonight I’m really happy that we won the game.”
“I think the team showed a lot of character and I think we deserved the win. It was a hard game but tonight really happy for all the team. What we showed tonight, I think it’s going to be an example for the future.”
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta also praised his team’s character for showing the resilience after fighting back from the brink of disaster after two costly mistakes by Dani Ceballos gifted Benfica a way back into the tie.
But Arteta, whose side now go into Friday’s last 16 draw, immediately forgave Ceballos despite substituting him after his second error in the second half.
Artate said: “I’m especially happy for Dani, he leads his profession like it’s the most important thing in his life.
“When he made that mistake if it meant we were out of the competition it would have been tough. Someone like him deserves good things to happen to him.
“But we gave them two goals. When you do that, you are going to be in trouble. After that, the reaction of the team gave me hope.”
Arteta also believes the victory can be a springboard for the rest of Arsenal’s season. Arteta added: “It certainly keeps the season going that’s for sure. Today would have been really harsh after what had happened in the two legs to go out. So I’m extremely happy to go through.
“Last year against Olympiacos was a very difficult one to swallow. To have some beautiful moments to celebrate together as a team is really important. When a positive experience is in the back of your mind… it is much more powerful and convincing for everybody.”