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Arsenal vs. Anderlecht: Final score 3-3, Gunners waste a three goal lead against Anderlecht

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Arsenal gave way a 3-goal lead in the final 30 minutes against Anderlecht, wasting an opportunity to guarantee their place in the Round of 16.

Michael Regan

Arsenal wasted a three-goal lead in the second half and were forced to settle for a 3-3 draw against Anderlecht at the Emirates Stadium. First-half goals from Mikel Arteta and Alexis Sánchez combined with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's early second-half goal appeared to have the Gunners on their way to an easy win, but Anderlecht fought back with three goals in the final 30 minutes to earn a draw.

Anderlecht were sitting back from the opening whistle, but that didn't mean they were shy about attacking when the opportunity presented itself.

On several occasions in the opening minutes, Anderlecht were able to get forward and generate some dangerous moments on the attack. The best chance came in the 10th minute when Dennis Praet got free thanks to some sloppy defending and fired a shot toward goal. Per Mertesacker got a foot, causing a heavy deflection that went just inches wide of the post.

Arsenal's first chance in the 14th minute was undone by defender Chancel Mbemba who made a last-ditch effort to block Aaron Ramsey's close range effort.

Anderlecht came firing back though and in the 16th minute, Wojciech Szczesny made a tremendous save, getting down low to block Sacha Kljestan's shot from 8-yards away that seemed destined for the back of the net.

Mmemba was the hero earlier with his block, but in the 24th minute an overly aggressive tackle on Danny Welbeck in the box gave Arsenal a penalty kick. Mikel Arteta heisted slightly on his approach and as Silvio Proto went low to his right, the Gunners midfielder placed his shot to the goalkeeper's left to make it 1-0.

Four minutes later Arsenal doubled their lead on a set piece when Alexis Sánchez unleashed a wicked free kick that beat Proto to give the Gunners a 2-0 lead.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain seemingly put the match away for the Gunners in the 58th minute, taking advantage of a turnover in the midfield before powering in on goal and beating Proto low and to the left.

Anderlecht made a late push though, pulling a goal back three minutes later thanks to a sliding toe poke from Anthony Vanden Borre, giving the visitors a measure of short-lived hope. In the 73rd minute, the referee awarded the visitors a penalty when Nacho Monreal brought down Aleksandar Mitrovic. Vandal Borre scored his second goal of the match, beating Szczęsny, from the spot to make it 3-2.

Just when it looked like Arsenal would hang on for the victory, Anderlecht's Mitrovic got in front of his marker and directed a header past Szczęsny in the 90th minute to even the score at 3-3. Andy Najar, who spent time in MLS, provided the assist, placing a cross right in the path of the striker.

Arsenal: Szczęsny, Gibbs, Monreal, Mertesacker, Chambers, Ramsey, Arteta (Flamini 62'), Cazorla, Sánchez, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Rosicky 81'), Welbeck (Podolski 81')

Goals: Arteta (25'), Sánchez (29'), Oxlade-Chamberlain (58')

Anderlecht: Proto, Acheampong, Deschacht, Mbemba (Dendoncker 54'), Vanden Borre, Tielemans, Kljestan, Conté (Kawaya 46'), Praet, Najar, Cyriac (Mitrovic 62')

Goals: Vanden Borre (61', 73'), Mitrovic (90')