High drama as Gunners recover from horror opening

High drama as Gunners recover from horror opening

Standard Liege 2 Arsenal 3

Man of the moment Eduardo grabbed the winner as Arsenal fought back from going 2-0 down inside five minutes to win their opening Champions League Group H clash away to Standard Liege tonight.

The Croatia marksman was only available tonight because the club successfully appealed against UEFA's two-match ban imposed for diving against Celtic in the second leg of the qualifying tie.

So it was probably fitting Eduardo had the final say as Arsenal recovered from a terrible start to open their group campaign with a morale-boosting away win.

It had not looked good early on though as before Arsene Wenger's men could get going they trailed 2-0 only to fight back superbly with a well-taken goal from Nicklas Bendtner on the stroke of half-time, with Belgium international Thomas Vermaelen bundling in an equaliser and Eduardo then completing the revival 10 minutes from time.

With the 27,000-capacity Stade Maurice Dufrasne in full voice as the Belgians celebrated their first appearance in the Champions League group stages, Arsenal were under early pressure.

The visitors failed to clear a corner, and it proved costly as Eliaquim Mangala smashed a low drive into the bottom corner to give Liege a shock lead in just two minutes.

Moments after the restart William Gallas was adjudged to have tripped Milan Jovanovic - Spanish referee Eduardo Gonzalez immediately pointing to the spot.

The Serbian, with five goals already this season, stepped up to send rookie goalkeeper Vito Mannone - making his Champions League debut - the wrong way.

Arsenal now faced another stern test of character as the home fans cranked up the atmosphere.

Slowly, though, the Gunners started to mount some pressure of their own, fit-again Czech midfielder Tomas Rosicky central to most promising moves on what was his first start since January 2008 following a string of injury setbacks.

Eduardo's chip across the penalty area almost picked out Bendtner but goalkeeper Sinan Bolat intercepted.

Patience remained the key for Arsenal as the home crowd started to get frustrated by their side's lack of impetus.

The visitors continued to press and were getting more balls into the danger area, but they were still coming up against some resolute defending.

Then, in stoppage time, Abou Diaby charged towards the penalty area before slipping in Bendtner on the right.

The Danish striker drilled in a fine first-time shot into the far corner to give the small band of travelling Arsenal supporters hope.

However, it was Liege who almost got off to another flyer at the start of the second half, when Dieudonne Mbokani capitalised on a mistake by Alex Song to go clean through, only for Gael Clichy to make a last-gasp saving tackle.

At the other end, Bendtner lost out to Mangala in the race to a long ball up field from Rosicky.

Liege were playing a dangerous game, sitting back and inviting pressure while looking to break.

As the hour mark approached, Arsenal now faced a wall of 10 red shirts every time they went forward.

It was a scenario Arsene Wenger's men had faced all too often before, and once again they struggled for creativity.

However, the equaliser finally came in the 77th minute when a deep free-kick caused havoc in the Liege six-yard box and Vermaelen bundled it over the line.

Eduardo was denied by a fine save from Bolat and Vermaelen had an effort cleared off the line.

The Gunners, though, got what they deserved when Eduardo slotted in at close range from a corner to complete the comeback with 10 minutes to go.

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