Not all heroes wear cape and that was the story of Nicolas Pepe on Thursday night in Arsenal’s game against Vitoria in the Europa League.
Marcus Edwards had put Vitoria in an early lead scoring the first goal in the 9th minute. The game then became difficult for Arsenal to handle as Vitoria had dominated the game.
Gabriel Martinelli put Arsenal back in the game in the 32nd minute with an equalizer but Arsenal’s joy didn’t last long as Bruno Duarte put his team back in the lead 5 minutes after.
The heroic moment came in the 75th minute when Nicolas Pepe played a free-kick that went slightly through the body of a Vitoria player’s body to find the back of the net.
For everyone who watched the match, a draw for Arsenal could have been better than losing the game but the hero said ‘Nah, not today’ as he put in a screamer free-kick in the 90th minute, making Nicolas Pepe’s second goal that night.
Even though Nicolas Pepe had a brilliant outing in the Europa League game on Thursday, everyone who watched the game would have seen how poor Arsenal had performed in the first half of the game.
Maybe a dressing room pep talk during the half time break brought the Gooners back on track but it was obvious the club was missing an important piece.
In his post-match interview as seen on Daily Star, Unai Emery had a lot to say about the match from Nicolas Pepe’s performance to how the club had played below standard.
“I think the two goals from Pepe was perfect. We deserved to win but we didn’t play well. Normally players need time for adaptation.”
“Pepe is a very good player. We believe in him totally. He is improving. Tonight’s two goals are really important for us and for him. He will continue his adaptation.
“We are really happy for him, for us. He was doing a lot of set-piece shooting on the training ground last week.
“The result is very important for us. Our objective is to finish top of the group. In the first half, we lost the ball a lot and gave them a lot of chances.
“In the second half, we controlled the match. Tonight we played more with our emotion and heart than with our organisation.”
Winning effect on the team
Unai Emery’s side were far from their best and found themselves 2-1 down in the second half after Marcus Edwards and Bruno Duarte scored for the visitor’s side.
Arsenal was headed towards a discouraging result in what has been a difficult week for Emery but Pepe popped up twice to reverse the result.
The Ivorian’s first was a clever strike that wrong-footed the goalkeeper but his second was even better as he clipped an exquisite effort around the wall and into the top corner.
It was a huge win for the Gunners and the relief was written all over Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s face in the stands.
As much as the team didn’t play well enough, the win was good for confidence and moving the team forward.
The aim for Arsenal should be winning the Europa League this season to earn them a spotin the Champions League next season. Also, to have a cup to celebrate but with losing games they could have won, the club might just be sloping down towards their usual near-miss of cups again.
What Nicolas Pepe’s performance was able to avert was the spirit of loss that could have gripped the team should they have lost to Vitoria.