Alexandre Lacazette, Arsenal Come Back to Draw Standard Liege, Advance in Europa

Gill Clark@@gillclarkyFeatured Columnist IIDecember 12, 2019

Arsenal's English striker Bukayo Saka (C) celebrates with teammate Arsenal's French striker Alexandre Lacazette (R) after scoring a goal during the UEFA Europa League Group F football match between R. Standard de Liege and Arsenal FC at the Maurice Dufrasne Stadium in Sclessin on December 12, 2019. (Photo by JOHN THYS / AFP) (Photo by JOHN THYS/AFP via Getty Images)
JOHN THYS/Getty Images

Arsenal came from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Standard Liege on Thursday and secure their place in the knockout phase of the UEFA Europa League as group winners.

The Gunners made nine changes to their starting XI but still looked the most dangerous team in a goalless first half in Belgium.

Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka both saw shots saved by Arnaud Bodart, while Reiss Nelson put a tame header too close to the goalkeeper just before half-time.

Standard Liege took the lead straight after the break. Samuel Bastien's shot took a heavy deflection off Sokratis Papastathopoulos and beat Emiliano Martinez in the Arsenal goal.

The hosts doubled their lead through another deflected strike on 68 minutes. Selim Amallah produced a good turn and shot in the box, and the ball took a nick off Konstantinos Mavropanos on its way in.

Arsenal responded quickly with Alexandre Lacazette pulling one back from Saka's cross before the 18-year-old fired home the equaliser three minutes later.

Caretaker manager Freddie Ljungberg named a young side for Thursday's match, including Konstantinos Mavropanos, Joe Willock, Nelson, Smith Rowe and Saka in his starting XI.

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James Olley at the Evening Standard shared the two teams:

Arsenal only needed to avoid defeat by five or more goals to qualify and looked the most likely side to score in a low-quality first half.

Smith Rowe was the first to test goalkeeper Bodart on 14 minutes. The 19-year-old fired a low shot across goal that the goalkeeper managed to divert wide by sticking out a boot.

The teenager was one of Arsenal's brightest players in the first half along with Saka. Bodart denied Saka at his near post and then watched as the 18-year-old blazed a shot over from the edge of the box.

The Standard Liege goalkeeper was then called into action once more as half-time approached, parrying a shot from Saka and then catching a header from Nelson on the follow up.

Arsenal were made to pay for wasting chances at the start of the second half when Bastien tried his luck with a shot from just outside the area and saw it beat Martinez courtesy of a big deflection off Sokratis:

The hosts then doubled their lead in similar style. Some more casual defending allowed Amallah time to turn and shoot, with the ball just taking a slight touch on its way past Martinez and into the far corner.

Yet the second goal seemed to spark Arsenal into life and they found some quality to pull one back. Saka fired in a precise cross for Lacazette to power a header home from close range and give the Gunners hope of a comeback:

The teenager then rescued the draw three minutes later, playing a one-two with substitute Gabriel Martinelli and then curling his shot past the goalkeeper (UK video only):

The point is enough to send Arsenal through and into Monday's draw as group winners, while Eintracht Frankfurt progress as runners-up despite defeat to Vitoria Guimaraes in the group's other game.

     

What's Next?

Both teams return to domestic action on Sunday. Arsenal host Manchester City at the Emirates Stadium, while Standard Liege take on Anderlecht.

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