RSC Anderlecht 1-2 Arsenal FC
The Gunners snatched victory from the jaws of defeat thanks to last-gasp goals from Kieran Gibbs and substitute Lukas Podolski.
Article top media content
• Kieran Gibbs and Lukas Podolski score late to earn Arsenal dramatic win
• Andy Najar heads in on 71 minutes to put Anderlecht in front
• Victory for Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger on his 65th birthday
• Gunners consolidate second place in Group D
• Next games: Arsenal v Anderlecht (4 November)
Kieran Gibbs – with his first goal in over a year – and Lukas Podolski scored late to earn Arsenal FC an unlikely 2-1 victory against RSC Anderlecht.
Missing a clutch of players and forced to field third-choice goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez, Arsenal struggled to make an impression in a low-key first half in Brussels. The tempo increased after the restart and the better chances continued falling to the Gunners, yet the hosts always looked a menace on the break and struck when Andy Najar headed in from a Dennis Praet cross. That seemed sufficient – until Gibbs and Podolski intervened either side of the 90-minute mark.
Anderlecht had conceded after three minutes against Borussia Dortmund last time out and they might have found themselves trailing just as early here, as Alexis Sánchez sped down the right and directed a dangerous cutback towards the middle. Santi Cazorla met the ball with a scuffed attempt, however, and the home team pounced on that reprieve to begin making a nuisance of themselves through lively duo Cyriac and Najar.
Alexis's pace and energy brought Arsenal another opportunity when he crossed for Danny Welbeck, whose leaping header sailed over, but the visitors were unquestionably finding life difficult. The Belgian champions carried a counterattacking threat too, even if they were unable to test Martínez's nerves in the opening half – the 22-year-old filling in for the suspended Wojciech Szczęsny and injured David Ospina.
That nearly changed quickly after the interval when Ibrahima Conté had a vicious shot deflected wide, but it was Anderlecht No1 Silvio Proto who needed to be alert soon afterwards as Alexis nodded straight at him from Cazorla's floated free-kick. Starting again after a spell out with a hamstring injury, Aaron Ramsey then prodded wide from a dangerous position.
When Martínez comfortably grabbed hold of a Cyriac effort sent skidding across the turf, it became clear that the match was finally beginning to open up – an impression confirmed when Proto just about kept out Cazorla's strike across goal after Alexis had sent the Spaniard free. If it appeared that Arsenal would be the side to take advantage, though, that theory was dispelled on 71 minutes as the unmarked Najar headed low to Martínez's left.
Anthony Vanden Borre ought to have doubled the advantage but scooped a shot up into the air that hit the corner of the crossbar and post. The Gunners looked destined for defeat on manager Arsène Wenger's 65th birthday until Gibbs volleyed in fellow full-back Calum Chambers' floated centre. There was still time for a winner from substitute Podolski, who smashed into the roof of the net after Alexis's shot had ricocheted his way.