Pepe late show secures Arsenal all three points against Vitoria SC


Nicolas Pepe’s two free-kicks off the bench helped Arsenal overcome Vitoria SC 3-2 in a match which they had trailed in for large periods.

It was the visitors who had the opening chance of the evening as Andre Almeida’s effort on the turn was saved by Emiliano Martinez.

The travelling Portuguese fans were in full voice as their team started the brighter, the Whites looking for their first points in Group F.

The away side took the lead on nine minutes and it was former Spurs youngster Marcus Edwards who scored it.

Victor Garcia broke down Arsenal’s right and when he cut it back to the Edwards, the Englishman faked inside of Hector Bellerin before firing through the legs of Martinez.

The returning Alexandre Lacazette had the opportunity for an immediate reply but dragged a shot wide of Miguel Siva’s left post.

Emile Smith-Rowe’s smart turn presented another chance to draw level but his shot was blocked at the last moment by Edmond Tapsoba.

Vitoria were now happy to sit and play counter-attacking football aided by the pace of Edwards and Davidson.

Unai Emery’s Arsenal looked to Bellerin and Kieran Tierney and the latter duly delivered on 32 minutes.

The Scot’s cross into the area found Gabriel Martinelli who headed past the stranded Silva to restore parity at the Emirates.

Smith Rowe almost ensured a two-minute double but saw an effort deflected just wide.

Vitoria retook the lead on 37 minutes. After Ainsley Maitland-Niles was robbed in possession, Davidson broke through and struck the Arsenal post. Bruno Duarte was on hand however to follow in and smash a first time effort into the Arsenal net.

The side fourth in the Portuguese top flight, almost doubled their advantage when Davidson struck from the edge of the area but his shot curled just wide.

2-1 to the visitors it remained at the break leaving Unai Emery’s men with work to do.

The Spaniard responded with two second half substitutes as Dani Ceballos and Matteo Guendouzi replaced Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Joe Willock.

Shkrodan Mustafi run forced an Arsenal corner which he almost profited from himself as he headed wide before Vitoria chanced was saved by Martinez at the other end.

Smith Rowe’s shot wide again after more positive work from Tierney down Arsenal’s left. It seemed a matter of time before a goal arrived at the Emirates, Arsenal looking shaky at the back but dangerous in the attacking third.

An artistic fall from Lacazette then failed to convince referee Luis Medina Canatalejo that Victor Garcia’s conduct deserved a red card after a clash between the two.

Frustration was growing within the Emirates as fans near the press area donned an ‘Emery Out’ poster, albeit only an A4 sized print.

Vitoria were hanging onto their 2-1 lead as the final 15 minutes approached buoyed by their ever-bouncing fans in the corner of the stadium.

The scores would be levelled on minutes however when substitute Nicolas Pepe fired a free-kick past Silva in the Vitoria goal. It was a great strike by the Frenchman who reminded Arsenal fans why their club were so desperate to bring the winger in from Lille this summer.

The game seemed destined to find a winner.

The visitors had a great chance on the break before Martinelli fired straight at Silva from close range.

Pepe had a chance to replicate their early feat but opted to cross, Rob Holding’s header held well by Silva.

Injury time beckoned as Arsenal pushed forward searching for the goal to maintain their perfect start to Group F.

Once again a free kick arrived on the edge, a potential last chance for Arsenal, Guendouzi and Pepe standing over it.

But the summer signing Nicolas Pepe duly delivered by whipping a free-kick into the top left corner to secure Arsenal all three points.

Arsenal stay top of Group F with three wins from three while Vitoria stay bottom and point less.

Arsenal XI: Martinez, Bellerin, Mustafi, Holding, Tierney, Willock (Ceballos, 46), Torreira, Maitland-Niles (Guendouzi, 46), Smith Rowe, Martinelli, Lacazette (Pepe, 75)

Arsenal unused substitutes: Leno, Kolasinac, Chambers, Saka

Vitoria SC XI: Silva, Venancio, Tapsoba, Garcia, Hanin, Andre Almeida (Pepe, 64), Agu, Poha, Edwards (Andre Pereira, 70) Bruno Duarte, Davidson (Rochinha, 87)

Vitoria SC unused substitutes: Douglas, Pedro Henrique, Bonatini, Al Musrati


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