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Page last updated at 07:35 GMT, Thursday, 17 September 2009 08:35 UK

Wenger delight at Arsenal spirit

Williams Gallas and Thomas Vermaelen
Centre-backs Gallas and Vermaelen looked far from convincing early on

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes his side's comeback victory over Standard Liege in the Champions League could prove pivotal for their season.

The Gunners went 2-0 down within five minutes in Belgium, but hit back late on to win the Group H opener 3-2.

That followed back-to-back Premier League defeats, and Wenger said: "When you're at a big club, you cannot afford to have too many defeats on the trot.

"After being 2-0 down, this will strengthen belief within the group."

The result gave Arsenal their first away victory in Europe since they beat Fenerbahce 5-2 in October 2008 and puts them top of Group H by virtue of goals scored.

In the group's other encounter, Greek side Olympiakos claimed a 1-0 home win against Dutch debutants AZ Alkmaar.

Arsenal will aim to consolidate their position when they host Olympiacos, who on Wednesday announced Brazil legend Zico as their new manager, at the Emirates Stadium on 29 September.

And Wenger will be keen for his side to make a better start to that match than they did against Liege at a vibrant Maurice Dufrasne Stadium.

606: DEBATE
jimmy-dean-2009

Less than two minutes were on the clock when Eliaquim Mangala capitalised on an Eduardo error to fire past goalkeeper Vito Mannone and, two minutes later, Milan Jovanovic converted a penalty after William Gallas clipped the Serbia forward.

"We were caught cold by a team who were really ready and started out of the blocks at full power," said Wenger.

"Standard gave absolutely everything. They played like it was a cup final, with full commitment - and they deserve a lot of credit.

"When you go 2-0 down after five minutes, you know you have a big task in front of you. To win away from home in the Champions League and score three goals will always be tough.

"You are in a position where you have to attack with full power, without restriction, and know that the next goal will kill you.

The Gunners regained their composure and hit back on the stroke of half-time through Nicklas Bendtner, before Thomas Vermaelen tapped home and Eduardo converted a Cesc Fabregas corner from close range with his knee to complete the comeback.

"We could not afford to concede a third goal but had to try to come back to 2-1 at least before half-time - which is what we did," Wenger continued.

"In the second half, the game dropped a bit in physical intensity. When they got tired, we got some set-pieces and took advantage."

And the Frenchman admitted it was "inevitable" Eduardo would have a say in the match having been cleared to play after his two-match European suspension was rescinded this week.

The Croatia striker was initially banned by European football's governing body after being found guilty of diving to win a penalty in the Champions League qualifier against Celtic on 26 August.

"It is always inevitable with Eduardo," said Wenger. "He was caught out on the first goal but he is a guy who can always turn up on crosses because he has that anticipation."

As for the penalty his side conceded and the equaliser with which Arsenal scored - when Alex Song, from what appeared to be an offside position, seemed to handle the ball in the build-up - Wenger added: "The penalty looked harsh, but I have not seen it again.

"As for our equaliser, it was impossible to see from the bench."

Meanwhile, Liege coach Laszlo Boloni lamented the fact his side dropped so deep after taking the early lead.

"We started very well, but were not strong enough mentally to continue the same way in the second half," he said. "We sat back in midfield, so all the pressure was too much for us.

"Arsenal had good help from the referee at their second goal - two players were offside and there was also a handball.

"This was the moment when they got more motivation and we lost ours, but the biggest problem was we have to play better."



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see also
Standard Liege 2-3 Arsenal
16 Sep 09 |  Europe
Wednesday's Champions League review
16 Sep 09 |  Europe
Wednesday football as it happened
16 Sep 09 |  Football
Champions League photos
16 Sep 09 |  Europe
Liverpool 1-0 Debrecen
16 Sep 09 |  Europe
Uefa overturns Eduardo diving ban
14 Sep 09 |  Europe


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