Arsenal throw away three-goal lead against Anderlecht in Champions League thriller
- Credit: EMPICS Sport
Arsenal 3 Anderlecht 3
Arsenal squandered the chance to book their place in the Champions League knockout stages as Anderlecht fought back from three down to snatch a dramatic point.
The Gunners seemed comfortably on course to wrap up qualification for a 12th successive year after Mikel Arteta’s penalty, followed by goals from Alexis Sanchez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, gave them a 3-0 lead.
But the Belgians kept alive their own hopes of a top two finish in Group D as Anthony Vanden Borre scored twice and substitute Aleksandar Mitrovic headed a last-gasp equaliser.
As they had done in Brussels a fortnight ago, Anderlecht often looked dangerous on the break and both Frank Acheampong and Dennis Praet had efforts deflected behind.
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And the Gunners were rescued by Wojciech Szczesny when Sacha Kljestan’s neat footwork left Kieran Gibbs floundering, with the keeper reacting quickly to make the block.
However, Arsenal also threatened when they attacked in numbers and Aaron Ramsey got in a shot on the turn, only for centre-half Chancel Mbemba to hurl himself into the path of the ball.
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Sanchez was denied by Silvio Proto at his near post, but inevitably the Chilean star was involved when the Gunners opened the scoring in the 24th minute.
Ramsey and Sanchez combined to play in Danny Welbeck, who tangled awkwardly with Mbemba and went tumbling to the ground, prompting referee Clement Turpin to award a questionable penalty that was calmly converted by Arteta.
And Arsenal were 2-0 up five minutes later when Sanchez was pulled back on the edge of the box by Vanden Borre and, when his free-kick bounced off the wall, he smacked the rebound first time into the bottom corner.
From that moment on, the home side looked comfortable and Oxlade-Chamberlain and Welbeck both went close to increasing their lead before half-time.
But the third goal arrived 13 minutes into the second period as Sanchez won possession and released Oxlade-Chamberlain, who streaked clear of Vanden Borre and sent a curling finish beyond the keeper.
Just as Arsenal’s qualification seemed to be assured, Anderlecht pulled a goal back, with Vanden Borre appearing to be offside as he stretched to turn in Cyriac’s low cross.
Although Welbeck almost restored the Gunners’ three-goal cushion with a close-range header, Proto gathered the ball at the second attempt, and the home defence suddenly found themselves under renewed pressure.
But the deficit was narrowed with a second dubious spot-kick – this time the referee decreed that Nacho Monreal had pulled down Andy Najar and Vanden Borre netted the penalty to make it 3-2.
Sensing the opportunity to maintain their own hopes of progressing in the tournament, the Belgians continued to push forward and Acheampong sent a left-foot drive whistling just over the bar.
And the visitors’ endeavour was rewarded in the final minute when Najar whipped over a teasing cross from the right and Mitrovic dived in front of Per Mertesacker to head the equaliser.
Arsenal: Szczesny; Chambers, Mertesacker, Monreal, Gibbs; Arteta Flamini 62); Oxlade-Chamberlain (Rosicky 82), Ramsey, Sanchez, Cazorla; Welbeck (Podolski 82).