Mikel Arteta came up trumps after his inspired sub grabbed a goal and played the final pass for Alexandre Lacazette to break Wolves hearts deep into injury time.
Wolves had their hearts in their mouths inside 30 seconds when Nelson Semedo felled Gabriel Martinelli inside the box. Semedo missed the ball entirely, but neither the referee or VAR on duty deemed the contact sufficient to warrant a penalty.
Arsenal too survived a scare when Romain Saiss saw a neat finish chalked off after latching on to the second ball following a corner. The centre-half had narrowly leaned offside with Arsenal’s defence earning credit for pushing out quickly and maintaining the line.
The deadlock always looked in danger and was soon broken after Gabriel Magalhaes committed a costly error.
A hopeful long ball should’ve proved easy to deal with but the close attentions of Raul Jimenez hustled Gabriel into a mistake. The Brazilian played a blind back-pass to Aaron Ramsdale which the gambling Hwang Hee-chan latched on to.
The South Korean rounded Ramsdale with his first touch before slotting home from a very acute angle.
Wolves lead at the Emirates!
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Jimenez spurned a glorious opportunity to double the advantage soon after, while Alexandre Lacazette and Martin Odegaard both saw efforts to level the scores blocked.
Taking the lead had emboldened Wolves to sit back and soak up pressure. There was even room for a spot of time-wasting from goalkeeper Jose Sa barely 25 minutes into the first half.
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Arsenal continued to probe at Wolves’ steely defence. Entering the contest, Bruno Lage’s side boasted the league’s joint-second meanest defence and it showed with Conor Coady and Max Kilman making vital blocks.
Lacazette was proving difficult to contain and linked up the play well as the half wore on. But Sa remained relatively untested when Martinelli and then Thomas Partey both blazed over.
Martinelli saw a lobbed effort smothered with Sa finally called into action. But it was Jimenez who came closest to scoring prior to the break when glancing Daniel Podence’s cross narrowly wide.
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Hwang came close to doubling his tally less than 90 seconds after play resumed. More superb work from Podence in the build-up saw the South Korean played in but his shot was tracking off target even before Ramsdale’s minor touch.
Lage was handed a blow when Semedo pulled up lame and immediately clutched his hamstring. The Portuguese was replaced by Jonny – making his return after nearly a year out with an ACL injury – and was tasked with filling the void on his weaker right side.
The Spaniard was immediately in the action for all the wrong reasons when fouling Lacazette on the edge of the area. The French striker assumed the responsibility himself, but saw his striker loop harmlessly to Sa after cannoning off the wall.
Mikel Arteta made a change of his own when replacing Martinelli with Nicolas Pepe. The energetic Lacazette continued to carry the greatest threat when forcing Sa into a tremendous near-post stop to preserve parity soon after.
Yet Arsenal’s heads never dropped, and with 10 minutes to go substitute Pepe levelled the scores. Fellow sub Eddie Nketiah found his winger inside the area. Pepe turned smartly with his first touch sublime before rifling the ball beyond Sa from close range.
Pedro Neto lashed a strike wide before Odegaard curled a superb effort off the top of the crossbar.
Yet on a truly topsy-turvy night, the biggest moment of all was saved until the end when Lacazette was slipped in by Pepe and fired home the winner after Sa’s attempted save deflected the ball inside the far post. Further replays showed the effort was tracking to go wide, with Sa’s intervention ultimately proving a costly one.