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Pepe scores two WONDER free kicks as Arsenal defy away win backers



Arsenal secured a last-minute 3-2 win against Vitoria Guimaraes in what was a thrilling Europa League group game at the Emirates.

Nicolas Pepe scored two free-kicks in the last ten minutes with the second being virtually the last action of the game giving Unai Emery’s men an important three points.

An Arsenal win was 2/7 but punters will be disappointed that Vitoria, who were 9/1 to win, let their lead slip out of their hands.

The first big moment of the game was a shock goal for Vitoria. Just 8 minutes into the game, Marcus Edwards, who left Tottenham this summer, slotted it past Emiliano Martinez to give the Portuguese side the lead.

The Gunners looked to reply quickly with good chances for Alexandre Lacazette, making his first start since September, and Emile Smith-Rowe both squandered.

Arsenal had a superb chance to equalise in the 29th minute but failed to convert. Hector Bellerin, who captained the side, puts in a good delivery but Gabriel Martinelli could not connect with the ball otherwise it would have been 1-1.

But three minutes later, the young Brazilian scored. Summer signing Kieran Tierney’s pinpoint cross was headed in by the teenager to give Unai Emery’s men an important equaliser.

The summer signing has been sensational in the Europa League and thus was 20/21 to score today and continued his great goalscoring season so far.

However, Arsenal weren’t level for long.

Vitoria scored just four minutes later to go into the lead again. Ainsley Maitland-Niles loses the ball in the middle of the pitch and Davidson unleased a great strike, which hit the post. Bruno Duarte came in to smash the rebound into the roof of the net to make it 2-1.

Vitoria, therefore, go into the half-time leading with Arsenal fans booing their team off the Emirates’ pitch.

Arsenal came out strong in the second half but lacked an incisive final ball to cut open Vitoria’s defence. The likes of Smith-Rowe and Lacazette were the players who looked the most dangerous.

It was the former who had the first great chance of the second half. Tierney’s delivery from the wing falls to the youngster but his half-volley flies past the far post. With the talented the Englishman possesses, he should have at least put it on target.

Neither side managed to create anything meaningful midway through the second half as they both failed to find the final pass.

Arsenal needed quality in the final third and had the luxury of bringing on club-record signing Nicolas Pepe on for Lacazette, which proved to be the difference.

Five minutes into his arrival, the Ivorian scored his first goal for the club that isn’t a penalty.
It was, instead, a sensational free-kick which everyone including the keeper, anticipated going over the wall. However, Pepe curled it beautifully in the far corner to level late on.

Pepe, like teammate Martinelli, was 20/21 to score and with his quality, it was no surprise to see him finally look worth the huge sum the Gunners paid for him.

Rob Holding had a great chance to score the winner but his header from a great Pepe delivery did not trouble the keeper.

The game went into the last minute of added time, where half-time substitute Matteo Guendouzi went on a surging run beating three or four men but was eventually brought down on the edge of the box.

Up steps Nicolas Pepe to bend in another free-kick and steal three points for the Gunners. Another beautiful struck set-piece which flew over the wall this time to give Unai Emery’s men a somewhat undeserved win.

It was very harsh on Vitoria who played superbly but the gulf in quality proved to be the Portuguese outfit’s downfall.

I am a passionate football fan studying in Swansea University. I have written for a number of football based publications including 90min. You can contact me via my email here, or connect and view my linkdin profile

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