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Arsenal battle back to beat Rapid Vienna

Gunners kick off their Europa League campaign with a 2-1 win in Austria despite a calamitous display from goalkeeper Bernd Leno

22 October, 2020 — By Steve Barnett

Europa League: Group B

RAPID VIENNA 1 (Fountas 51)
ARSENAL 2 (Luiz 70, Aubameyang 74)

PIERRE-EMERICK Aubameyang came off the bench to score the winner as Arsenal kicked off their Europa League campaign with a 2-1 victory over Rapid Vienna.

The north Londoners had to do it the hard way – coming from a goal down, and overcoming a calamitous performance from their goalkeeper Bernd Leno, to grab the win in front of 3,000 home supporters at the Allianz Stadion.

The Gunners gifted the hosts the lead early in the second half with a moment of madness that Arsenal fans fear they will see all too often this season.

Trying to play out from the back, David Luiz passed the ball to Leno, who inexcusably presented possession to Ercan Kara. The striker gratefully accepted, before picking out teammate Taxiarchis Fountas for a simple finish.

At least it was a mistake that Leno would learn from… you would hope.

But minutes later the German international was at it again, rushing a clearance that fell to Fountas. This time, however, Leno redeemed himself – at least a little – as he parried the striker’s goal-bound shot out for a corner.

It was to prove a crucial save as on 70 minutes Arsenal drew level. Nicolas Pepe swung in a free-kick from the right, and Luiz rose to glance home a header and mark his 50th appearance for the club in style.

Four minutes later the comeback was complete. Mohamed Elneny played an exquisite pass to release Hector Bellerin, who picked out fellow substitute Aubameyang to tap home.

It could have been oh so different. In between the goals Leno chipped in with another clanger, hitting a clearance against Luiz. Fortunately for the shaky shot-stopper Fountas was unable to capitalise this time as he fired wide under pressure from Luiz.

Reflecting on Leno’s display Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said: “It is part of our game model [to play out from the back]. We need to understand when we can do that, and when we should kick the ball into the stands. To recognise that from the outside is much easier than from the inside.

“Leno has the courage to play out from the back and we have been very successful doing it with the amount of goals we have scored in important games.

“So we need to find the right balance but I will keep encouraging them to do it in the right moments.”

The 2-1 win wasn’t the best part of the night for Arsenal fans. Making his full debut, Thomas Partey was immense in midfield, breaking up play and driving Arteta’s side forward at every opportunity.

It was a performance that didn’t go unnoticed by the Gunners boss. “I think he held the midfield by himself in the second half,” said Arteta. “I think he was fantastic tonight and there is much more to come from him.”

Rapid Vienna: Strebinger, Stojkovic, Hofmann, Barac, Arase (Schick, 79), Ljubicic, Grahovac, Ullmann, Kara (Kitagawa, 76), Ritzmaier (Knasmullner, 88), Fountas
Substitutes not used: Unger, Gartler, Sonnleitner, Petrovic, Alar, Greiml, Sulzbacher, Ibrahimoglu, Savic

Arsenal: Leno, Luiz, Gabriel, Kolasinac, Cedric (Ballerin, 61), Partey, Elneny, Saka (Tierney, 84), Pepe (Nelson 90+4), Lacazette (Willock, 84), Nketiah (Aubameyang, 61)
Substitutes not used: Runarsson, Macey, Maitland-Niles, Mustafi, Xhaka

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