Pepe 8/10 after rescuing Arsenal with two brilliant late free kicks
Two outstanding free kicks from substitute Nicolas Pepe helped Arsenal snatch victory from the jaws of defeat on Thursday as they secured a dramatic 3-2 victory over Vitoria de Guimaraes in the Europa League.
It was an encouraging display from 19-year-old Emile Smith Rowe, and Pepe's stunning cameo could prove to be the jump start for the Ivory Coast international's Arsenal career.
The Gunners were wide open at times, thanks largely to a disjointed midfield that were collectively sloppy in possession. Unai Emery's defence were always one step behind a Vitoria attack that were bristling with energy and verve.
-- Laurens: Wenger ready to get back into football
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Difficult to give Emery too much stick, as he looked to give fringe players a platform to impress ahead of a busy run of games, but his introduction of Pepe gave Arsenal an impetus that ultimately won the game.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Emiliano Martinez, 6 -- Made a good save to deny Andre Almeida early on, but may be disappointed that Marcus Edwards' shot squirmed through his legs for the opener. Had no chance with Bruno Duarte's excellent finish for 2-1.
DF Kieran Tierney, 5 -- Didn't cover himself in glory for the opener when he was outpaced by Victor Garcia on Vitoria's right flank before being twisted inside out by goal scorer Edwards in the penalty area.
DF Rob Holding, 6 -- Didn't face a great deal of direct action, with most of Vitoria's threat coming from out wide, but needs to take his share of the flack for a poor defensive display from his side. Forced a good save late on with a header from a Pepe free kick.
DF Shkodran Mustafi, 6 -- Booked for cynically pulling back Almeida when the forward was racing through the Arsenal half, but nearly found the net when he glanced a header just wide at the start of the second half.
MF Lucas Torreira, 6 -- The little Uruguayan had a busy first half and looked to make things happen, but his bobbling pass led to Ainsley Maitland-Niles' poor touch as Vitoria pounced and made it 2-1. Played in an unusually advanced role in the second half that doesn't suit him.
MF Joe Willock, 5 -- A terrible pass in midfield set Vitoria away on a blistering counter-attack that went unpunished, and the youngster didn't look particularly comfortable when in possession. Hooked at half-time for Dani Ceballos.
MF Ainsley Maitland-Niles, 5 -- The 22-year-old was caught dithering in possession by a rampant visiting attack on their way to going 2-1 up after 36 minutes. An ineffective display going forward from a player who needs to start delivering more. Replaced at half-time by Matteo Guendouzi.
MF Emile Smith Rowe, 7 -- A bright display from the youngster as he gave the visiting defence plenty to think about. Should've scored in the 54th minute when he volleyed wide in the penalty area from 12 yards out.
FW Gabriel Martinelli, 7 -- Should have done better on the half-hour when he failed to make a connection with Bellerin's whipped cross, but made no mistake shortly after when he headed over the stranded Miguel Silva in the Vitoria goal to make it 1-1.
FW Alexandre Lacazette, 5 -- A frustrating evening for the Frenchman, who was feeding off scraps while under close surveillance from a physical visiting defence. Failed to fool the ref with some embarrassing theatrics during a coming together with Garcia in the second half, and was booked for dissent shortly before being replaced by match-winner Pepe for the final 15 minutes.
MF Matteo Guendouzi, 6 -- Gave his side a bit more purpose in midfield and dealt better with the Vitoria press than Maitland-Niles did.
MF Dani Ceballos, 6 -- The Real Madrid loanee didn't make the most of some promising openings, and looks to be struggling for form.
FW Nicolas Pepe, 8 -- A brilliant free kick hauled his side level with 10 minutes to play, and a rasping set piece from closer in won the game at the death. Finally showed why Arsenal paid £72 million for him and the hope will be that he will just kick on from here.