Standard Liege 2-2 Arsenal: Alexandre Lacazette and Bukayo Saka strike as Gunners come from two goals down to finish top of Group F
- The visitors created the better chances in the first half but the game remained goalless at half-time
- Samuel Bastien broke the deadlock in the 47th minute when his strike took a huge deflection of Sokratis’ arm
- Selim Amallah doubled the lead with an effort than took a defection off Konstantinos Mavropanos’ hand
- Bukayo Saka crossed for Alexandre Lacazette to head home and end the home side’s hopes of qualifying
- Saka then drew his side level moments with a fine curling effort after playing a one-two on the edge of the box
So, Carlo, fancy it? On the one hand, should Ancelotti become Arsenal manager, he will rarely endure a dull moment. On the other, this defence requires the most major of major surgeries.
Arsenal secured their spot in the next round of the Europa League but for the 13th consecutive outing, they failed to keep a clean sheet – equalling a club record from 2004.
They also finished top of Group F, owing to two late Vitoria Guimaraes goals that left Eintracht Frankfurt as runners-up. Into the hat they go, even if it all was a bit uninspiring.
Alexandre Lacazette (right) congratulates Bukayo Saka after the youngster drew Arsenal level during the second half
Saka (right) curled the ball into the far corner after exchanging a one-two Gabriel Martinelli on the edge of the box
Lacazette (left) watches on as Saka (centre) shoots to score Arsenal’s equalising goal at the Stade Maurice Dufrasne
Lacazette (eft) and Saka celebrate after finding the net in quick succession to put the Gunners back on top of the group
Standard Liege (4-5-1): Bodart, Fai, Vanheusden, Laifis, Gavory, Mehdi Carcela-Gonzalez, Bastien, M’Poku, Cimirot, Amallah (Lestienne 85), Emond (Avenatti 46)
Subs not used: Gillet, Lavalee, Cop, Boljevic, Vojvoda
Goals: Bastien 47, Amallah 69
Arsenal (3-4-2-1): Martinez, Mavropanos, Luiz, Papastathopoulos (Martinelli 69), Maitland-Niles (Chambers 78), Guendouzi, Willock, Saka, Smith-Rowe (Aubameyang 85), Lacazette, Nelson
Subs not used: Leno, John-Jules, Medley, Olayinka
Goals: Lacazette 78, Saka 81
Referee: Andreas Ekberg (Sweden)
Interim head coach Freddie Ljungberg knew all his side of striplings had to do was avoid defeat by five goals to qualify. In the end, Standard Liege didn’t even muster five shots.
Their two strikes here were both avoidable, though Arsenal at least showed character in coming from 2-0 down to draw 2-2, with Bukayo Saka the inspiration behind the comeback.
Needing a miracle to go through, Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws tried to inspire the hosts by reminding them Lenny Kravitz once said: ‘Baby, it ain’t over ’til it’s over.’
Het Nieuwsblad were less optimistic, opting for the headline ‘Mission Impossible’ on their front page. The crowd were up for it, as they came armed with flags and fireworks.
Within 30 seconds, Matteo Guendouzi was on the ground holding his face. He had been welcomed to Liege by the flailing arm of Paul-Jose Mpoku, though the Arsenal man milked the contact.
It killed a minute or two, perhaps in a bid to interrupt the hosts. Ljungberg had warned his players that Standard, primarily playing for pride, would come after them.
Arsenal, whose line up screamed inexperience, had to limit their errors. The only way this might become a more competitive match would be if they shot themselves in the foot.
Lacazette headed home from Saka’s inch-perfect cross to halve the deficit in the 78th minute of the Europa League clash
Liege goalkeeper Arnaud Bodart (left) can only watch as Lacazette (2nd right) heads home on the edge of the six yard box
The French striker points to the skies after scoring his sixth goal of the season in all competitions on Thursday night
Yet once again, Arsenal tried to play it out from the back and once again, it was calamitous. Ljungberg had called on his players to be courageous, but there’s bravery then there’s stupidity.
David Luiz was at the heart of a three-man defence that also included Konstantinos Mavropanos, the 22-year-old Greek making his first senior appearance this season.
Those two were almost caught out early on. A poor header by Luiz led to Mavropanos giving the ball to Mehdi Carcela, who should have tested Emiliano Martinez with a better effort.
Martinez later tried to take part in tiki-taka by his own box and came close to embarrassment, too.
At the other end, Arsenal looked exciting. Emile Smith Rowe slotted in nicely on the right side and only the foot of goalkeeper Arnaud Bodart denied him from scoring in the 13th minute.
Goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez (centre) is wrong-footed after Samuel Bastien’s strike takes a big deflection off of Sokratis’ arm
Bastien (2nd right) celebrates with his team-mates after breaking the deadlock just two minutes after the half-time break
Saka then broke through on the left wing but Bodart did his job again, denying the youngster. Moments later, the 18-year-old Londoner fired over from the same side.
As time ticked on, Arsenal edged closer to the knockout stages. They had coped with the pitch, with all of its divots, and dealt well with an aggressive Stade Maurice Dufrasne atmosphere.
Before the break, Saka had his third attempt at scoring but again, he was denied. A spot of composure and the young man might have had a first career hat-trick.
Elsewhere, Eintracht Frankfurt were winning 2-1 against Vitoria SC, meaning Arsenal were sitting second in Group F. As things stood, they would be unseeded in Monday’s draw.
Two minutes after the restart, Standard had the lead. Samuel Bastien fired a speculative 25-yard shot and it took a wicked deflected off of Sokratis, who had turned his back on it.
That was poor from the big Greek and harsh on a helpless Martinez who had already dived to one side, only to see the ball trickle by him on the other.
Not for the first time this season, Arsenal’s defenders were left looking at one another.
Fireworks were set off in one corner of the Stade Maurice Dufrasne. The side sitting third in the Belgian First Division – and who lost 4-0 at the Emirates Stadium – had the lead.
They were controlling the tempo, too, and Standard soon had a second goal.
Joe Willock passed the ball into the feet of Selim Amallah. The attacker danced a little then created a yard of space for a shot, which led to another deflection off of Mavropanos.
Arnaud Bodart (left) gets a foot to Emile Smith Rowe’s (centre) shot to it to send it behind for a corner in the first half
Saka takes a shot from the left hand side of the box during the final minute of the second half in Belgium on Thursday
Martinez dived but could not reach it and Arsenal were staring at a defeat.
Alexandre Lacazette had been anonymous in attack, then he turned up. Saka crossed and the No 9 got his head to the ball, scoring from pointblank range.
Then, game on. Having created one goal, he scored the next. Saka worked his way across the box and tried his luck. He found the far corner, escaping the fingertips of Bodart.
Smith Rowe grabbed hold of the ball and raced back to the halfway line, calling on his team-mates to reset. He wanted to go again. He wanted a winner.
In the end, draw was enough and Arsenal were Group F winners.
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