Nicolas Pepe provides late Unai Emery relief as Arsenal narrowly avoid Vitoria nightmare

Daily Express sports reporter Tony Banks reflects on Arsenal's last-gasp 3-2 win over Vitoria Guimaraes in the Europa League on Thursday night.


Posted Friday, October 25, 2019 by Express.co.uk

Nicolas Pepe provides late Unai Emery relief as Arsenal narrowly avoid Vitoria nightmare
Nicolas Pepe provides late Unai Emery relief as Arsenal narrowly avoid Vitoria nightmare (Image: GETTY)

Unai Emery had not been a happy bunny before this game. Upset by criticism of his team, and his methods. It looked like he might be plunged even further into the depths of despair on Thursday night– until Nicolas Pepe came along.

The Ivorian, with two brilliant late free kicks, the second in injury time, snatched victory for Arsenal from the jaws of defeat in an extraordinary turnaround at the Emirates.

The 24-year-old started on the bench, a reflection of his up-and-down season after his £72million arrival from Lille in the summer, which had produced only one penalty before last night. But he has truly arrived now.

First the Ivory Coast international curled in a free kick with ten minutes left to haul the Gunners level for the second time. And then in the second minute of injury time, he did it again.

But boy, was this a close run thing for Emery. Guimaraes were supposed to arrive, roll over and provide a little light relief. But the evening nearly turned into a nightmare.

Twice, the brilliantly-organised and lightning-quick-on-the-break Portuguese led, through former Tottenham forward Marcus Edwards and Bruno Duarte, and they could and should have had more. Gabriel Martinelli cancelled out the first strike – and then came Pepe.

Guimaraes arrived having lost their opening two group games. Mesut Ozil was once again nowhere in sight for the Gunners – which made his tweet the night before which said, ‘You make me laugh’, very interesting.  Was it his message to his manager? 

Emery got an even more unwelcome message right from the start. The warning signs were there as Andre Almeida narrowly missed.

Nicolas Pepe provides late Unai Emery relief as Arsenal narrowly avoid Vitoria nightmare
Nicolas Pepe provides late Unai Emery relief as Arsenal narrowly avoid Vitoria nightmare (Image: GETTY)

Nicolas Pepe provides late Unai Emery relief as Arsenal narrowly avoid Vitoria nightmare
Nicolas Pepe provides late Unai Emery relief as Arsenal narrowly avoid Vitoria nightmare (Image: GETTY)

But Arsenal did not heed them. Victor Garcia crossed and Edwards turned Kieran Tierney inside out before burying his shot.

The Portuguese were tearing the Gunners apart with their pace. There were several more narrow escapes – but then, out of nowhere, they were level.

Tierney crossed from the left and Martinelli nodded home. But Emery’s team were only level for five minutes.

Once again his defence were caught on the hop, as Ainsley Maitland-Niles dithered on the ball and was robbed by Davidson. His drive came back off the post – but only to Duarte, who rifled home. It was truly shambolic – as Davidson nearly added a third.

On at half time went Matteo Guendouzi and Dani Ceballos as Emery tried to rescue matters.

Nicolas Pepe provides late Unai Emery relief as Arsenal narrowly avoid Vitoria nightmare
Nicolas Pepe provides late Unai Emery relief as Arsenal narrowly avoid Vitoria nightmare (Image: GETTY)

Nicolas Pepe provides late Unai Emery relief as Arsenal narrowly avoid Vitoria nightmare
Nicolas Pepe provides late Unai Emery relief as Arsenal narrowly avoid Vitoria nightmare (Image: GETTY)

Frustration though was growing as Arsenal struggle to make any headway. Alexandre Lacazette, back in the side after recovering from ankle problems, fell theatrically after a clash with Garcia. He was then booked, and hauled off, as Pepe went on. It was the catalyst for the recovery.

Ten minutes from time Lucas Torriera was brought down on the edge of the area – and Pepe curled in a lovely free kick.

Then, in the second minute of injury time, Guendouzi was fouled – and Pepe did it again.

Emery might, just might, be a bit happier now.

Photos

More»


Attention: Third parties may advertise their products and/or services on our website.7M does not warrant the accuracy, adequacy or completeness of their contents.
Your dealings with such third parties are solely between you and such third parties and we shall not be liable in any way for any loss or damage of any sort incurred by you.