Tuesday 12 November 2019

Pepe finally makes his mark to lift pressure from Emery

Arsenal 3 BVitoria 2

Nicolas Pepe of Arsenal celebrates with team mates after scoring his team's third goal. Photo: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images
Nicolas Pepe of Arsenal celebrates with team mates after scoring his team's third goal. Photo: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Mark Mann-Bryans

Arsenal's club-record signing Nicolas Pepe stepped off the bench to score two free-kicks and seal a Europa League comeback win over Vitoria and spare the blushes of under-fire head coach Unai Emery.

After losing at Sheffield United on Monday night, Emery launched an impassioned defence of his tenure as Gunners boss on the eve of the Group F clash - but what followed was as below-par performance rescued by the brilliance of his £72million man, who struck a fine brace to earn a victory.

Nicolas Pepe of Arsenal scores his team's second goal. Photo: Naomi Baker/Getty Images
Nicolas Pepe of Arsenal scores his team's second goal. Photo: Naomi Baker/Getty Images

Without a goal from their first two games and with no away win in Europe since 2005, Vitoria stunned the Emirates Stadium as former Tottenham winger Marcus Edwards opened the scoring before Bruno Duarte restored the lead following Gabriel Martinelli's equaliser.

With more than one "Emery Out" banner displayed and the crowd singing for Mesut Ozil - again absent from the matchday squad - it was clear Emery's calls for patience from supporters had largely fallen on deaf ears but the stadium erupted as Pepe curled in two wonderful free-kicks in the final 10 minutes.

Elsewhere, Raul Jimenez capped Wolves' Europa League comeback as they laboured to a 2-1 win at Slovan Bratislava.

The striker's penalty fired Nuno Espirito Santo's men to an unconvincing victory as they moved into second in Group K.

Nicolas Pepe of Arsenal scores his team's third goal past Miguel Silva . Photo: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images
Nicolas Pepe of Arsenal scores his team's third goal past Miguel Silva . Photo: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Andraz Sporar's opener was cancelled out by Romain Saiss' deflected second-half effort before Jimenez won and converted a penalty five minutes later.

Diogo Jota was sent off late on after two quickfire yellow cards but they survived to sit a point behind group leaders Braga.

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