PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG spared Arsenal’s blushes as they snatched an unlikely victory in what should be the toughest game of their Europa League group.
The Gunners skipper was supposed to be having a well-earned night off until Bernd Leno gifted a 51st minute goal to their Austrian opponents.
But Leno’s blunder forced Mikel Arteta to turn to Plan B and send on top scorer Auba to save the day.
And the veteran striker did exactly what was required, tapping home from Hector Bellerin’s 74th minute cross to secure all three points.
Yet Arteta knows his team got away one after a desperately unconvincing first hour.
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They fell behind when Leno insisted on trying to play out from the back despite finding himself under pressure from David Luiz’s back pass.
But the German’s short pass was intercepted by Ecan Kera to leave Rapid dangerman Taxiardis Fountas with a golden opportunity which he was never going to miss.
It was not the first time Leno had looked shaky in possession – and it certainly wasn’t going to be the last.
He almost repeated the error when he inexplicably sprinted from his penalty area to hammer the ball straight into Luiz.
Fortunately for Arsenal, Fountas was unable to cash in on Leno’s generosity a second time and shot over from distance with the keeper nowhere to be seen.
Arsenal had only just hauled their way back into contention at the time thanks to Luiz glancing in Nicolas Pepe’s free-kick to celebrate his 50th Arsenal appearance in style.
And within a minute of Leno’s great escape, Aubameyang twisted the knife on the 32-times Austrian Champions with the winning goal.
Elsewhere in the group, Irish side Dundalk fell to a 2-1 defeat against Molde at Tallaght Stadium.
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