EUROPA LEAGUE – Arsenal 3-2 Vitoria SC: Pepe to the rescue as club-record signing earns the Gunners undeserved win
PUBLISHED: 21:55 24 October 2019 | UPDATED: 21:55 24 October 2019
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Nicolas Pepe saved the day for Arsenal as he scored two superb free-kicks to earn the Gunners a valuable Europa League win, as they beat Vitoria Guimaraes 3-2 at the Emirates on Thursday night.
Marcus Edwards opened the scoring with neat finish on eight minutes as the Gunners received the double blow of falling behind and conceding to a former Tottenham youngster.
Arsenal fought back against the run of play, with Gabriel Martinelli heading the equaliser on 32 minutes, but Bruno Duarte's close range effort put the away side back in front just four minutes later after more sloppy defending.
It was up to substitute Pepe to save the day, when he curled home not one but two free-kicks in the final 10 minutes to earn the Gunners an undeserved win in north London.
Unai Emery made 10 changes to the side that lost at Sheffield United on Monday, with Joe Willock the only man to keep his place, while Alexandre Lacazette, Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding and Kieran Tierney were all handed starts.
Vitoria had the game's opening chance when Andre Almeida received a cross with his back to goal before turning and shooting, but Emiliano Martinez was down quickly to save at the near post.
That was a sign of what was to come, with the Portuguese side taking the lead on eight minutes, and based on the balance of play, it was thoroughly deserved.
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With Tierney caught out of position, the visitors bombed down the right. A low cross found Edwards who faked to shoot before slotting through the legs of Martinez.
The Gunners were all over the place after the goal as Vitoria flooded forward in search of second, but Emery's men somehow found a leveller on 32 minutes, that was in truth, undeserved.
Tierney was allowed time to cross from left, finding the head of Martinelli who directed the ball beyond Silva and into the net.
Having found a way back into the game, Arsenal shot themselves in the foot and fell behind once again just four minutes later.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles gave the ball away to Davidson just inside his own half, with the striker driving at the Gunners' defence before firing off the post. Duarte was on hand to tuck home the rebound though, souring the atmosphere at the Emirates and sending the away into half-time ahead.
Emery introduce Dani Ceballos and Matteo Guendouzi at the break, and while it helped Arsenal control the game they still created little in terms of chances, with Emile Smith Rowe having the best opportunity when he scuffed an effort wide of the post.
It was up to substitute and club-record signing Pepe to save the day on 80 minutes, as he curled a superb free-kick round the wall and into the bottom corner to level the game with a goal that will be as important for him as it was for the Gunners.
Arsenal looked the more likely side to win the game in the closing minutes, and they did just that in injury time, when Pepe stepped up to take another free-kick and he found the top corner to win the game with a superb individual display.