Substitute Nicolas Pepe rescued Arsenal with two sublime free-kicks in the last 10 minutes of their Europa League group game against Vitoria Guimaraes at Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal was losing 2-1 before Pepe came in the 75th minutes to score five minutes later with a curling effort from 25 yards.
Pepe repeated the feat in stoppage time as Arsenal avoided their second straight defeat and retained their place at the top of Group F.
Marcus Edwards had earlier cut inside and fired into the bottom corner to give Victoria a shock lead. This is just before Gabriel Martinelli nodded in his fifth goal in his third start to make it 1-1.
Bruno Duarte restored the visitors’ lead on 36 minutes pouncing on a rebound to send arsenal into the half-time break a goal behind.
The Gunners were poor for large patches of the game. The club burst into life in the final 10 minutes. Martinelli was denied from close range before Rob Holding’s header was well held by the goalkeeper.
Unai Emery made 10 changes from the side that lost to Sheffield United in the Premier League on Monday. However, he was forced to bring on Matteo Guendouzi and Dani Ceballos at half-time before Pepe made the difference.
Pepe in Arsenal
There was huge excitement this summer when Arsenal signed the Ivory Coast winger, Nicolas Pepe from Lille.
Pepe showed glimpses of brilliance against Liverpool on his Premier League start in August and picked up an assist in the following game against Tottenham.
However, the winger has been largely underwhelming and needed to make an impression from the bench in the European tie.
And that’s exactly what he did. He curled both set-pieces past the helpless Miguel Silva to give Arsenal another three points in the group.
Pepe helped the club maintain their 100% record in the competition this season.
Unai Emery was pleased with how Pepe displayed his skills against Vitoria Guimaraes. He said, “Our aim in this competition is to top the group. Each match is a chance to use different players and grow experience and little by little get better. We didn’t play as we wanted but we showed good spirit. It’s a good victory.”
“It is important for Pepe. He can gain confidence form tonight. When he scored its good for him and the team. He is getting better, playing minutes, playing matches and scoring goals like tonight and he helped us tonight to win this match.”