Arsenal 3-3 Anderlecht: Gunners surrender three goal lead to Belgians

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Knowing that a win would put them through to the last 16 of the Champions League, Arsenal went up 3-nil before Anderlect scored three straight to snatch a late point at the Emirates.

The Gunners’ first-half display was one of the best of the season, dazzling their opponents with dominant bouts of possession, clever movement and two well-taken goals. The second half looked destined for more of the same after the Gunners increased their lead to three but Anderlecht clawed their way back into things to pull off the shock result of the Group Stage.

Arsenal began the match well, out-possessing Anderlecht who looked pacey on the counter. Eleven minutes in and Aaron Ramsey found himself with a look on goal after Danny Welbeck slipped a clever pass to the Welshman but his effort from six yards out was blocked by Chancel Mbemba. It was end-to-end stuff for awhile and after Sacha Kljestan’s shot was blocked, on came Arsenal with Calum Chambers finding Sanchez, whose shot pinged off the post. 

[Related: Real Madrid 1-0 Liverpool]

The action was even-keeled until the 25th minute when Mbemba took down Danny Welbeck inside the area. Up stepped Arteta, who buried it with class. With the lead in hand, Arsenal looked in control as Alexis Sanchez terrorized his opponent with devastating speed and invention. After winning a 29th minute free-kick, Sanchez stepped up and had his effort blocked by the wall but his follow-up was flush and there was nothing Silvio Pronto could do. Two-nil to the Arsenal.

“Alexis Sanchez, he scores when he waaaants” was the chant that broke out in the stands, commending the winger’s five goals in his last three matches and Arsene Wenger’s side entered half-time with a confident pep in their step.

Another enthused Arsenal man was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who’s pace found him popping up all over the place. After Sanchez hounded down a loss of possession in midfield, the ball fell to the Ox who zipped past the hefty Anthony Vanden Borre down the left side. Cutting in the box with speed, Ox opened his hips and hammered a side-footed shot into the far corner.

Three-nil up and it was happy happy days for Arsenal but three minutes later and the party came to a crashing halt as the fleet-footed Gohi Cyriac shook his way free on the left side and drilled a low pass onto the boot of Vanden Borre to make it 3-1. After Mikel Arteta became the latest Gunner to succumb to injury and Danny Welbeck’s 69th minute header was saved by Proto, Anderlecht were awarded a penalty after Nacho Monreal pulled down substitute striker Aleksander Mitrovic. Monreal was lucky to stay on the pitch but Vanden Borre made him pay, finishing calmly from the spot to make it 3-2.

With anxiety pumping through the Emirates, Anderlecht smelled blood and at the end of regulation, they found their equalizer as Andy Najar whipped in a cross that Mitrovic finished with class. It was the capper on a stunning comeback in the most unbelievable chain of events that means Arsenal will have to wait until Matchday Five to try and secure qualification to the Round of 16.

Arsenal: Szczesny, Chambers, Mertesacker, Monreal, Gibbs, Arteta (Flamini 61′), Oxlade-Chamberlain(Rosicky 83′), Ramsey, Alexis, Cazorla, Welbeck (Podolski 83′)

Subs: Martinez, Bellerin, Walcott, Sanogo

Goals: Arteta 25′; Sanchez 29′; Oxlade-Chamberlain 58′

Anderlecht: Proto, Deschacht, Mbemba, Vanden Borre, Praet, Kljestan, Tielemans, Najar, Cyriac (Kawaya 62′), Acheampong, Conté (Mitrović 45′)

Subs: Roef, Colin, Heylen, Dendoncker, , Kabasele,

Goals: Vanden Borre 61′, 73′; Mitrovic 90′