Match report as Alexandre Lacazette forces a Jose Sa own goal in stoppage time to clinch a 2-1 win for Arsenal; Nicolas Pepe had cancelled out Hwang Hee-chan's opener in the 82nd minute; Gunners move up to fifth in the Premier League
Friday 25 February 2022 06:31, UK
Arsenal ignited their top-four challenge with a dramatic comeback against Wolves as Jose Sa's own goal in the fifth minute of stoppage-time clinched a 2-1 win at a buoyant Emirates Stadium.
Alexandre Lacazette forced the goal having missed a succession of earlier chances, his close-range, angled effort bouncing in off the Wolves goalkeeper after substitute Nicolas Pepe had come off the bench to equalise in the 82nd minute.
Earlier, Hwang Hee-chan had given Wolves a 10th-minute lead when he latched onto an underhit backpass by Gabriel Magalhaes and rounded Aaron Ramsdale before slotting into an empty net.
Bruno Lage's side, who were seeking to avenge their 1-0 loss at Molineux two weeks ago, defended superbly after that, with Conor Coady, Max Kilman and Romain Saiss helping to keep the wasteful Gunners at bay.
But Arsenal finally made the breakthrough when substitutes Pepe and Eddie Nketiah combined, and the dramatic winning goal, a moment of redemption for Lacazette, ensured Arsenal moved up to fifth, a point off Manchester United with two games in hand.
Mikel Arteta's side came into the game hoping to capitalise on Tottenham's defeat to Burnley on Wednesday but Hwang's early strike, when he punished Gabriel's error, stunned the home fans.
Arsenal had started brightly, seeing a penalty appeal turned down inside the first minute when Nelson Semedo tangled with Gabriel Martinelli.
But the momentum shifted with the visitors' opener and they should have doubled their lead when Raul Jimenez dragged wide from Daniel Podence's through-ball soon afterwards.
Arsenal: Ramsdale (6), Soares (6), White (7), Gabriel (5), Tierney (6), Partey (7), Xhaka (6), Saka (7), Odegaard (8), Martinelli (6), Lacazette (6).
Subs: Pepe (8), Nketiah (7), Tavares (6).
Wolves: Jose Sa (6), Kilman (7), Coady (8), Saiss (7), Semedo (6), Moutinho (7), Neves (7), Ait-Nouri (6), Hwang (7), Podence (8), Jimenez (6).
Subs: Jonny (6), Neto (5), Dendoncker (6).
Man of the match: Martin Odegaard.
Arsenal rallied, creating a series of chances in the first half, but they were frustrated by a combination of poor shooting and heroic Wolves defending, with Saiss, Coady and Kilman making crucial blocks to deny Bukayo Saka and Lacazette.
Wolves threatened again either side of the break, with Jimenez heading wide and Hwang firing a low effort just past the post from another fine Podence through-ball, but Arsenal dominated from then on.
Despite their domination, though, their frustration only grew as they displayed a familiar lack of cutting edge with Lacazette the most culpable as he repeatedly fluffed his lines in front of goal.
It was left to Pepe to make the breakthrough, the Ivorian turning smartly and firing past Sa from Nketiah's cut-back for a timely first Premier League goal of the season, and after Wolves substitute Pedro Neto spurned a huge chance to put the visitors back in front at the other end, his low shot creeping wide after taking a touch off Gabriel, the stage was set for a dramatic finale.
Lacazette provided it, finally forcing the ball into the net after a total of eight shots without success, and while it was not credited to him, it did at least allow him to soak up the adulation of the fans as Arsenal savoured a potentially crucial victory.
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta told Amazon Prime: "When you win the match after going 1-0 down, and you know what it means against Wolves, it is really difficult but we did it. A really important win for this.
"We don't know today how important this will be but we know the importance of winning our matches and certainly at home we know we have to be extremely good. At the end of May we want to be fighting for those places."
When asked if he preferred to win this way or with a dominant and comfortable victory, Arteta added: "Probably the way we won it because it created a belief and togetherness and an atmosphere and cohesion with our fans as well and that is extremely necessary. This team needs belief, we are a really young squad.
"After three defeats in the first three games we had to avoid relegation. That was the first thing we had to do. Then we took it game by game and didn't lose sight of the objective with the team. You just have to be consistent with your vision and the way you prepare and believe the result will come."
Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette told Amazon Prime: "I feel really happy, it is amazing to win this kind of game in the last minute.
"We really wanted this win because we know it is important to be at the top of the table.
"I knew it was the end of the game and Nicolas Pepe gave me a good ball. It went in and we are happy with the three points.
"A bit sad it is not gone down for me, I want to score, but most important is to win.
"We had a difficult January but we are coming back better in February."
Sky Sports' Nick Wright:
Alexandre Lacazette led the celebrations after forcing Arsenal's winner. The equaliser was Nicolas Pepe's moment to savour. But neither goal would have been possible without Martin Odegaard.
It was his superb lofted pass that released Eddie Nketiah in the build-up to the leveller and he was there again to force the opening for the second, receiving Pepe's pass in a pocket of space on the right-hand side of the box then sliding the ball through to Lacazette.
When Arsenal needed a cool head under pressure, that little bit of guile to pick a way through the massed ranks of gold-shirted defenders in front of Jose Sa's goal, the Norwegian provided it.
It is what he does.
Odegaard's numbers for goals and assists in the Premier League this season are modest at four and three respectively in 22 appearances. But Arsenal's best moments almost always start with him.
Mikel Arteta has praised him for his leadership as well as his quality and he shows it off the ball as well as on it. Against Wolves, he worked tirelessly, running 11.9km, nearly a kilometre further than any of his team-mates, and also recording the most sprints (20).
He drove them on in the closing stages and while the adulation was mostly directed at Pepe and Lacazette, the significance of Odegaard's role in the comeback, and in Arsenal's top-four push more generally, should not be underestimated.
Wolves boss Bruno Lage said: "This is football. It is 96 minutes and we need to be in the game all the minutes.
"We had three good chances to go 2-0. Arsenal then come and score two goals and get the three points.
"It was a good game. I think we deserved more than we got but this is football.
"I am proud of my players. We played well, we came here to play with our personality.
"We don't win together but now is to recover and go again against West Ham."
Arsenal's next game is away to Watford on Sunday, March 6 in the Premier League - kick-off 2pm - while Wolves travel to West Ham on Sunday, live on Sky Sports from 1pm; kick-off 2pm.