[Ratings] Arsenal 3-2 Vitoria: Pepe masterclass maintains perfect UEL record
Here are our player ratings from Arsenal’s thrilling 3-2 victory over Vitoria at the Emirates in the Europa League on Thursday night.
The Gunners had to come from behind twice to salvage the 3 points with a late Nicholas Pepe masterclass gaining Arsenal a 3-2 win over their Group F opponents, Vitoria, in the Europa League, at the Emirates Stadium.
Unai Emery’s side were late to come out of the traps against their Portuguese opposition, allowing them to snatch an early goal in the 8th minute thanks to Marcus Edwards, a local boy and former Tottenham academy player. He was able to pick the ball up in the box, turn his man and slot it through Emiliano Martinez’s legs in the Arsenal net.
Arsenal were trying to play some fluid football but it was clear to see that the 10 changes made by the manager were taking their toll and the hosts were struggling to get going. This was until the 32nd minute, which saw two of Arsenals summer signings linking up to level the score line. A sublime cross from Kieran Tierney found Gabriel Martinelli’s head and the 18-year-old guided the ball home for 1-1. This was the youngsters 5th goal of the season, 3rd in the UEL.
Vitoria were not put off by this setback and kept going at the hosts. Lacklustre passing by Arsenal allowed Vitoria to capitalise and restore their lead. In the 36th minute, Ainsley Maitland-Niles lost the ball in midfield, which allowed Davidson to drive forward, his initial shot bounced off the woodwork but Bruno Duarte was on guard to fire home to put Vitoria 2-1 ahead before the break.
Half time saw Dani Ceballos and Matteo Guendouzi take to the field as Emery looked to turn the game around for Arsenal. Ceballos looked sharp, passing around the Portuguese outlet and carving out opportunities to score. Nothing was able to beat the opposing keeper. However, the substitute of one man in particular, Nicholas Pepe, in the 75th minute saw something change for the Gunners.
The hosts were awarded a free kick in the 80th minute after Lucas Torreira got blocked off. Pepe, the late gamble by Emery, stepped up and curled a sensational shot into the far corner of the Vitoria net, to draw his team level 2-2. The madness didn’t stop there. The leveller from Pepe looked as if it gave Arsenal a new lease of life. In the 90th minute, Guendouzi picked the ball up in the middle of the park and drove at the oppositions defence. He looked as if he was going to have a go at goal but was brought down to the left of the D to win his team, what looked to be, the last piece of action of the game. Who else but Pepe stepped up to try to win all 3 points for his side. He stood over the ball and whipped it over the wall and into the top left corner. 3-2!!!
The £72 million record summer signing for the Gunners came up trumps to announce himself in North London and win the game. Arsenal now go onto 9 points after 3 games in the UEL. They will face Crystal Palace on Sunday in the Premier League, to try and see if they can bounce back after their shock defeat to Sheffield United.
Emiliano Martinez (5) – maybe could have done better for the first goal, but all round not called upon.
Hector Bellerin (6) – still trying to regain full match stamina, had a few flurries throughout the game but did set up Martinelli for what could have been the winner late on.
Shkodran Mustafi (6) – solid defending all match, maybe could have kept tighter to his man. Did miss a few good headers to get Arsenal back on track.
Rob Holding (6) – just like Mustafi, had a solid night in terms of defending. Still trying to gather full fitness, to regain his premier league spot.
Kieran Tierney (7) – was on the wrong side of his man for the first goal but did chase the ball down to try and block the shot. Put a wonderful cross in for Martinelli to score. Was threatening all game with his balls and his runs. All round good night.
Lucas Torreira (5) – started well in his preferred position, defensive midfield, but throughout the game was pushed up field, out on the wing, everywhere and anywhere. Couldn’t find his feet at all.
Joe Willock (4) – a few misplaced passes, resulted in the opposition gaining more counter attacks than the hosts would have liked. Couldn’t really build on his bright start to the season, got subbed off at half time.
Emile Smith-Rowe (6) – up there with the best in the first half. Could have scored straight after the leveller but didn’t. Second half was good for him as it resulted in more game time.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles (3) – poor first half, hence the swift substitution. Gave the ball away for their second goal. Tough night for the young boy.
Gabriel Martinelli (7) – continued his great run of goal scoring form when starting senior games for Arsenal. Very lively when closing down and trying to win the ball back. High energy levels for the 18 year old. Big things to come from him.
Alexandre Lacazette (5) – Frustrating evening for the Frenchman but he knows his form will return when he gains more match fitness. Couldn’t really link up any play or take on any shots.
Dani Ceballos (6) – yet again looked bright in an Arsenal shirt. Heavily involved in the attacking play after coming on at half time. He performed some nice touches and played some decent balls.
Matteo Guendouzi (6) – hard working as always. Used his knowledge and took on the Vitoria defence to get taken down and ultimately win the winning free kick.
Nicholas Pepe MAN OF THE MATCH (8) – after getting subbed on in the 75th minute, he took the game by the scruff of the neck and was able to sniff out dribbling opportunities. Levelled things up with a lovely free-kick. Then stepped up to take the second free kick, full of adrenaline, confident after the first, and fired it home to win it for Arsenal. Both goals can act as confidence boosters for later games. Is this the start of Nicholas Pepe in an Arsenal shirt?
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