Arsenal came back from the dead thanks to two late free kicks from record signing Nicolas Pepe, to turn around a deficit and stay top of our Europa League group.
Vitoria had deserved to lead the game up until that point and had created more chances, but late pressure told and substitute Pepe came up with the goods when it mattered most.
Unai Emery was starting to feel the heat and his pre-match press conference he spent most of the time justifying his position, selections and tactics.
The Spaniard opted to name Tierney and Bellerin in the backline along with Rob Holding and Mustafi, with Jo Willock, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Lucas Torreira in a midfield three. Up top we had the impressive Gabriel Martinelli, Emile Smith-Rowe and Lacazette made his first start since his injury as the sole number 9.
From the off, Vitoria were not fazed by playing away and within eight minutes they had taken the lead.
Marcus Edwards cut in from a wide position and fired a low shot past Martinez and into the bottom corner to silence the crowd and give the Portuguese side something to hold onto.
But they weren’t content with just the single goal lead.
They were full of intent, and we were simply not putting enough pressure on them, so Vitoria were streaming forward when they had the ball, which was far more than they should have had it.
We were not without bright moments, and Smith-Rowe was looking the likeliest to create something, but the nearest he came was when he turned his man but his effort was charged down.
We finally made a breakthrough though, and it was down to Kieran Tierney’s pinpoint delivery yet again, his cross finding Martinelli who had risen highest to loop a header over the keeper. The young Brazilian maintained his excellent contribution record when featuring, and his tireless efforts to close down the Vitoria defence were commendable.
The parity didn’t last long, as Vitoria once again took the lead before half time. A shot from outside the box beat Martinez but cannoned off the post. The rebound came quickly at Bruno Duarte, but he hit it first time and past the stricken keeper before he had a chance to get back up.
There was no more action left in the first half and we trudged off after yet another disappointing display. It was enough to prompt Emery into action, sending on Ceballos and Guendouzi for Maitland-Niles and Willock.
It didn’t really spark an immediate reaction though.
The next moment of note was an embarrassing one for Lacazette, who was shoved off the ball and the Frenchman went down holding his face. Uncalled for from Laca, who had struggled to get into the game.
The 65th minute came and we had still only registered one shot on goal, with the away side having five. The game was slipping away and so Emery made one last shake of the dice, sending on Nicolas Pepe.
Fifteen minutes later, Pepe had left his mark and what a mark It was.
We earned a free kick twenty five yards out and the Ivorian showed great class to bend it over the wall and into the net, with the keeper having no chance.
We were level and we had been lucky.
With five minutes left, Pepe was at it again, his cross into the box found Holding, who delivered a good header, but Vitoria’s keeper, Silva, produced a great save to stop what looked a certain goal.
Pepe wasn’t finished though, and when we earned another free-kick from a similar area to his first effort, he again stepped up and buried it into the net, grabbing us a winner.
It was a fabulous effort, and with mere seconds left on the clock, it meant he was the hero. After a difficult start to his Gunners career, this was another step onto reclaiming the form that made him such a wanted man this summer.
We had snatched victory, but what can we learn from this game?
Smith-Rowe Hitting Top Gear
Still so young, but injuries have left Smith-Rowe playing catch up after impressing last season. Whenever he had possession, his footwork allowed him to make space and he made Vitoria struggle. Definitely did his chances no harm.
Torreira IS NOT A PLAYMAKER
The Uruguayan is flitting in and out of the side, struggling for form. It doesn’t help that he is playing far further forward than he should be, lessening his impact.
After making a big splash in his first few games, Ceballos is now going through a patch where he seems to be drowning in games. His initial ability to change games is now not happening, and the Spaniard needs to regain his confidence to get back to where he was.
Pepe Goals Are Another Indicator
In his last few games, Pepe had shown to the eagle-eyed fan a few touches and passes that reveal how talented he really is. His free-kicks required accuracy and nerves of steel considering the position we were in – and Pepe showed he can deal. He has never hidden away and demanded possession, even when the pressure was amped up on him. Far more to come.
Our next game is this weekend against Crystal Palace in the Premier League