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Arsenal top group thanks to late comeback in Belgium

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Standard Liege v Arsenal - Stade Maurice Dufrasne, Liege, Belgium - December 12, 2019 Arsenal's Bukayo Saka celebrates scoring their second goal with Alexandre Lacazette

Image credit: Reuters

ByEurosport
12/12/2019 at 18:46 | Updated 12/12/2019 at 20:35

Europa League Group F, Sclessin - Standard Liege 2 (Bastien 47', Amallah 69') Arsenal 2 (Lacazette 78', Saka 81')

Arsenal finished top of their Europa League despite staging a late comeback in Belgium to rescue a 2-2 draw against Standard Liege.

Arsenal came into the clash knowing that they could potentially be knocked out if they suffered a heavy defeat against Standard.

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However the opening goal didn’t come until moments after the half-time interval when Samuel Bastien’s deflected effort found its way past Emiliano Martinez in the Arsenal goal.

Samuel Bastien midfielder of Standard Liege celebrates with teammates after scoring during the UEFA Europa League group F match between Standard Liege and Arsenal Football Club on December 12, 2019 in Liege, Belgium, 12/12/2019

Image credit: Getty Images

Selim Amallah doubled the home team’s advantage but Arsenal soon countered thanks to the intervention of 18-year-old Bukayo Saka.

First he crossed for Alexandre Lacazette to head home and then he equalised when his effort from the edge of the box went in.

Thanks to Eintracht Frankfurt’s 3-2 defeat at home against Vitoria Arsenal top the group.

TALKING POINT

Did Freddie Ljungberg get lucky? Minus a couple of exceptions, the interim coach fielded a very inexperienced team - and they endured a difficult 90 minutes on a night when they needed to get a result. In the end, Saka and Lacazette bailed Arsenal out but Ljungberg should have recognised that the Europa League represents Arsenal’s best route of getting back into the Champions League, and played it safe by fielding a more experienced team. He also made a formation change, and if there’s one thing Arsenal need right now it’s consistency. Ljungberg got away with one here - it so nearly went badly wrong for him.

Interim Manager of Arsenal, Freddie Ljungberg looks on prior to the UEFA Europa League group F match between Standard Liege and Arsenal FC at Stade Maurice Dufrasne on December 12, 2019 in Liege, Belgium.

Image credit: Getty Images

MAN OF THE MATCH

Bukayo Saka (Arsenal) The teenager continues to save his best performances for the Europa League. He combined effectively with Reiss Nelson in the first half and had Arsenal’s best chances. Eventually he produced Arsenal’s first moment of real quality with the cross for Alexandre Lacazette’s goal, and then scored Arsenal’s second, which proved vital for the Gunners. He has two goals and four assists in Europe this season, and is quickly become Arsenal's go-to man in the competition.

PLAYER RATINGS

STANDARD LIEGE: Bodart 8, Vanheusen 7, Cimirot 6, Emond 5, Carcela 7, Amallah 7, Fai 6, Gavory 6, Bastien 7, Laifis 6, Mpoku 8. Subs: Avenatti 6, Lestienne n/a

ARSENAL: Martinez 4, Sokratis 5, Luiz 6, Mavropanos 5, Maitland-Niles 6, Guendouzi 5, Willock 5, Saka 9, Nelson 7, Smith Rowe 8, Lacazette 7. Subs: Martinelli 6, Chambers n/a, Aubameyang n/a.

KEY MOMENTS

45’ Double Arsenal chance! Saka finds space again on the left, but his shot is straight at Bodart. Nelson looks to nod in the rebound, but that man Bodart is there again.

47’ GOAL! Standard Liege 1-0 Arsenal - The Belgians have the lead! A hopeful shot by Samuel Bastien deflects off Sokratis, it wrongfoots Martinez and Standard Liege lead!

69’ GOAL! Standard Liege 2-0 Arsenal - Amallah scores! It's another deflected shot, this time coming off Mavropanos after Willock failed to clear and Guendouzi was sold Amallah's dummy.

78’ GOAL! Standard Liege 2-1 Arsenal - Lacazette scores! The first moment of real quality by Arsenal as Saka whips in a ball from the left and it's right on the head of Lacazette who wasn't going to miss.

81’ GOAL! Standard Liege 2-2 Arsenal - Saka scores! Arsenal have another one, and it's Saka, who has made one and scored one. This time he has a go from the edge of the box with his weaker right foot, and it somehow goes in.

KEY STATS

Saka has assisted six goals for Arsenal in all competitions this season. That’s two more than any other Gunners player.

In Europe this season, Saka has scored two goals and notched up four assists.

In fact, among English players, only Raheem Sterling has been directly involved in more goals in European club competition than Saka.

Arsenal have now failed to keep a clean sheet in 13 consecutive games in all competitions, equalling their longest ever run under Arsene Wenger (between October and December 2004).

Arsenal failed to beat Standard for the first time. Their previous five meetings had all ended in Arsenal victories.

Arsenal remain level with Tottenham Hotspur as the English club with the most Europa League victories (22).

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