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Reprieved Eduardo seals superb Arsenal fightback

September 17, 2009 07:50 IST
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Arsenal's Eduardo da Silva, playing two days after his diving ban was lifted on appeal, celebrated his reprieve by scoring a late winner in a dramatic 3-2 Champions League win at Standard Liege on Wednesday.

The Brazilian-born Croatia striker netted from close range with nine minutes to go, three minutes after Thomas Vermaelen had levelled for the Londoners.

It meant Eduardo went from villain to hero because he was also at fault for Standard's first goal as the Belgians went 2-0 up inside five minutes.

Eduardo, sidelined for a year after breaking his leg in February 2008, had been due to sit out his team's Group H opener after being suspended for two games for deceiving the referee when he won a penalty in a qualifying tie against Celtic.

The ban, which infuriated Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger and focussed the spotlight on diving, was lifted by European soccer's ruling body UEFA on Monday.

"When you are a big club you cannot accept such a defeat so it was important to come back and win tonight," Wenger told reporters.

"We were caught cold by a Standard team that came out firing. It could happen to anyone but to come back and win showed a great team."

Holders Barcelona kicked off with a goalless draw at Inter Milan in the night's top match while Dynamo Kiev scored three times in the last 19 minutes as they came from behind to beat Russians Rubin Kazan 3-1.

Five-times European Cup winners Liverpool beat Hungarian outsiders Debrecen 1-0 at Anfield, Olympiakos Piraeus defeated AZ Alkmaar by the same score and Olympique Lyon overcame 10-man Fiorentina 1-0.

Liege, crushed 7-0 at home by Arsenal in a European Cup Winners' Cup match in 1993, started as if they intended to avenge that result.


They went ahead after two minutes when Eduardo tried a back-heeled flick on the edge of the area but the ball fell to Eliaquim Mangala, who fired past third-choice goalkeeper Vito Mannone.

Milan Jovanovic then won and converted a fifth-minute penalty to double the lead for the group stage debutants.

Nicklas Bendtner pulled one back for Arsenal on the stroke of halftime and that changed the complexion of the game.

Second half Arsenal pressure ended with Belgian international Vermaelen scrambling the ball over the goal-line in the 78th minute following a Cesc Fabregas free kick.

Another lapse in Liege's concentration allowed Eduardo to turn and fire home Fabregas's corner three minutes later.

Inter and Barcelona fought out a scrappy 0-0 draw with Samuel Eto'o, who left the Catalans for Milan in the close season, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who moved in the opposite direction, failing to manage a shot on target.

Barcelona's Lionel Messi showed some classy touches in the Group F game although the Argentine scooped an easy chance over the bar following Thierry Henry's cross-shot in the second half. "It is never easy playing against Italian teams but I'm very proud we tried to win the game. We lacked a bit of precision," said Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola.

Liverpool struggled past unsung Debrecen in Group E after Dirk Kuyt scored in first-half stoppage time, sliding in the rebound after keeper Vukasin Poleksic had stopped a shot by Fernando Torres.

A late goal by Miralem Pjanic helped Lyon beat Fiorentina in the same group.

The Italians were always up against it after striker Alberto Gilardino was sent off on the stroke of halftime for elbowing midfielder Jeremy Toulalan.

A late goal from Vassilis Torosidis gave Olympiakos, with new coach Zico watching in the stands, victory over AZ Alkmaar in the other match in Arsenal's group. Brazilian pair Luis Fabiano and Renato scored as Sevilla beat Unirea Urziceni of Romania 2-0 in Group G.

In the same section Rangers held VfB Stuttgart to a 1-1 draw in Germany.

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