Nicolas Pepe Joins Elite Company With Match-Winning Brace in Arsenal Win

With 12 minutes to go in Thursday night's Europa League clash at the Emirates, Arsenal were as good as dead and buried. Vitoria Guimaraes had struck early and then stymied. Unai Emery was squirming on the touchline. Fans, if they were still there, were restless, ready to explode at the final whistle.

Of course, this wasn't helped by the fact that Marcus Edwards, once of Tottenham's academy, had opened the scoring and that Gabriel Martinelli's equaliser was cancelled out just four minutes after it had brought parity.  

It also didn't help that the Portuguese outfit, despite keeping just 32% of possession with a 68% pass accuracy and trailing the Gunners by eight in the corners department, managed two more shots than their hosts.

And it certainly didn't help that, in scoring his eighth-minute goal, Edwards matched Arsenal's record transfer's goalscoring output at the Stadium since his arrival. But that didn't last for long. No siree.

That's because, with two strikes of the dead ball, Nicolas Pepe resurrected his beleaguered side, rising from the ground to ascend all those around him. And he ascended into some pretty decent company.

As revealed by Opta, Pepe is the first player to score two direct free-kicks in a Europa League game since Luis Suárez for Liverpool against Zenit St. Petersburg in February 2013.

The free-kicks, which came in the 80th and 92nd-minute, were from different places, utilising different techniques, but both bamboozled a hesitant wall and keeper alike. And both signalled the Ivorian's true arrival at Arsenal.

His arrival as match-winner of the present, and certain match-winner of the future. His arrival as more than just a penalty-converter. Sure, he may not have escaped the grips of the dead ball just yet, but he's injecting life into his team, and that's all that matters.

Source : 90min