Arsenal’s winless run extended to four games as Bruno Duarte’s stoppage-time equaliser earned Vitoria a 1-1 Europa League group stage draw at the Estádio D. Afonso Henriques.
Faced with the novelty of a mid-afternoon Wednesday kick-off, the visitors barely fashioned an opening until Shkodran Mustafi nodded home from Nicolas Pepe’s free-kick ten minutes from time, and looked to have stolen an undeserved victory.
But where Pepe had scored late to win the reverse fixture, here it was the Portuguese side who struck, as Duarte’s acrobatic finish levelled things.
With Granit Xhaka deposed, new club captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mesut Ozil left in London, and neither Alexandre Lacazette nor Hector Bellerin involved from the start, Emery was forced to look outside his designated leadership group for a skipper, handing Rob Holding the armband.
The 24-year-old was deployed as part of a back three, with Kieran Tierney and Ainsley Maitland-Niles as wing backs, and initially it looked as if that system might work as Tierney galloped down the left and curled a teasing ball across the face of goal, just evading Pepe.
However, it was to be one of the only threatening moments of a dour first-half performance, as midfield pair Dani Ceballos and Joe Willock struggled to gain control or link defence with attack.
Instead, it was the hosts who thrice came close to opening the scoring. Their own Pepe rattled the upright with a vicious hit from 25 yards, before former Tottenham youth star Marcus Edwards forced Emiliano Martinez into a decent stop with a similar effort.
Centre-half Edmond Tapsoba was allowed a free run from a set piece to test Martinez again with a flicked header, as half-time arrived without the Gunners having asked a question of Vitoria stopper Douglas.
Thing s didn’t get much better after the restart, as Ceballos pulled up sharply chasing Edwards, and soon hobbled off clutching his hamstring, replaced by Matteo Guendouzi.
It took until just after the hour mark for Arsenal to fashion a chance of note as Shkodran Mustafi headed Pepe’s outswinging corner over the bar, and, despite the introduction of Lacazette, they barely threatened again until, finally, the same combination produced the opener.
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But Duarte struck back, and the result, coupled with a drab performance, will see the pressure on Emery mount once more ahead of a crunch meeting with high-flying Leicester City in the Premier League this weekend.