R. Standard de Liège 2-3 Arsenal FC
The Gunners struck twice late on to deny Standard a win on their group-stage debut, Eduardo scoring the decisive 81st-minute goal.
Article top media content
Arsenal FC scored two late goals to prevent R. Standard de Liège from crowning their first UEFA Champions League group-stage appearance with a memorable win, the Gunners plundering a dramatic 3-2 victory in Belgium.
The English hosts inflicted Standard's heaviest ever European defeat back in 1993, triumphing 7-0 at Stade Maurice Dufrasne, but it was the hosts who threatened to run up the score this time around, centre-back Eliaquim Mangala finding the net with little more than a minute gone and Milan Jovanović following up with a spot-kick moments later. Arsenal failed to stir until Nicklas Bendtner's strike late in the first half, but they equalised through Thomas Vermaelen eleven minutes from time and claimed maximum points with an Eduardo strike two minutes later.
Standard's supporters greeted their start to life in Europe's premier club competition with a wild crescendo of noise, and their heroes more than responded in kind, stunning Arsenal with a goal inside two minutes. Manuel Almunia's chest infection combined with Łukasz Fabiański's pre-season injury meant Arsène Wenger was obliged to hand third-choice goalkeeper Vito Mannone the gloves and, making his own debut at this level, the Italian was beaten at his near post by a low Mangala effort from the edge of the area after Eduardo had failed to clear a corner.
Mannone's whirlwind introduction to the competition was not over yet either, as just three minutes later he was again picking the ball out of his net. This time William Gallas brought down Jovanović and the Serbian winger picked himself up to rifle in the resultant penalty. Despite their European pedigree, Arsenal were the side more resembling naïve newcomers and, when they were not losing possession unnecessarily, their attempts to rally ran aground against some disciplined and energetic football from the hosts.
With Les Rouches increasingly content to play on the break, however, the visitors were at least able to enjoy the greater possession, and they eventually made telling use with their first genuine chance on the stroke of half-time, Bendtner sweeping a shot through goalkeeper Sinan Bolat's legs and inside the far post after running on to Abou Diaby's intelligent pass. Any suggestion that László Bölöni's troops would now crumble was quickly dismissed seconds after the restart, though, Gaël Clichy doing well to block as Dieudonné Mbokani pulled the trigger in front of goal.
As time ebbed away, Standard nonetheless began to let Arsenal approach almost at their leisure again, a strategy that seemed destined to bear fruit as long-range shots from substitute Aaron Ramsey and captain Cesc Fàbregas found Bolat perfectly able to cope. Just as it seemed the visitors would leave empty-handed, however, Vermaelen bundled the ball over the line from point-blank range after a scramble in the area following a Fàbregas free-kick. Arsenal's winner was no prettier, Eduardo registering at close distance from a corner, but the result was all that mattered as they opened Group H with a win.