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November 04, 2014

LONDON (AP) — Arsenal squandered a 3-0 lead with half an hour to play as Anderlecht produced a stunning comeback to draw 3-3 in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Arsenal captain Mikel Arteta scored from the penalty spot in the 25th minute and Alexis Sanchez volleyed home a superb second just four minutes later.

Sanchez then created Arsenal's third for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the 58th minute as the home side looked to have taken complete control of the Group D clash and sealed a place in the last 16 with two matches to play.

However, two goals from Anthony Vanden Borre, the second from the penalty spot in the 73rd minute, hauled Anderlecht right back into the match and Aleksandar Mitrovic headed a dramatic equalizer in the 90th minute.

Two weeks after Arsenal was fortunate to snatch a late 2-1 victory over its Belgian opponent, Tuesday's performance at Emirates Stadium looked a lot more emphatic — at least for the first hour.

Though Arsenal applied the early pressure, the first chance fell to Anderlecht on the break after a poor back-pass by Danny Welbeck in the Belgian half. Dennis Praet latched on to the loose ball and surged through an exposed defense, finishing the move with a shot that took a wicked deflection for a corner.

Arsenal's first opportunity to break the deadlock followed soon afterward, when Aron Ramsey swiveled around for a close-range shot that was charged down. Moments later, Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny needed to make a desperate save on the edge of his six-yard box after Sacha Kljestan rounded defender Kieran Gibbs and unleashed a goal-bound shot.

With Sanchez finding the post at the other end, and both defenses looking shaky, a goal was clearly on the cards.

The only surprise was that it came from the penalty spot, after Anderlecht center half Chancel Mbemba felled Welbeck with a clumsy challenge in the area.

Arteta coolly chipped his spot-kick down the middle as keeper Silvio Proto dived helplessly to his right, and the home side had taken a step toward the last 16.

Another step followed just four minutes later, after Sanchez took a free kick that struck the Anderlecht wall. The ball looped high in the air and back to the Chile striker, who smashed home a volley that Proto got a glove to but couldn't keep out. It was Sanchez's fifth goal in his last three matches.

Arsenal kept up the pressure after the re-start and was rewarded when Sanchez won back possession outside the Anderlecht area, releasing Oxlade-Chamberlain for a penetrating run and a curling shot past Proto into the far corner.

However, defensive frailties have marked Arsene Wenger's side this season and they soon returned with a vengeance.

Substitute Davy Roef broke down the right flank in the 61st minute and sent in a low cross that Vanden Borre turned in from point-blank range — with Arsenal appeals for offside waved away by the referee.

Vanden Borre then narrowed the deficit even further from the penalty spot, giving Szczesny no chance after Nacho Monreal had pulled down Mitrovic in the area.

At this stage, the home side was barely clinging on to a victory and a place in the knockout stages. That already loose grip was broken completely when Mitrovic brilliantly headed home Andy Najar's cross into the corner of the Arsenal net in the last minute.

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