Aaron Ramsey struck in injury time as Arsenal came from behind to beat Crystal Palace 2-1 and start the new Premier League season in style.
Until the Welshman gleefully prodded home from close range it seemed like Arsène Wenger’s men would be frustrated by the highly-organised visitors from south London.
The summer signing from Barcelona would lead the pursuit of a winner in the second half. But, in truth, Arsenal lacked edge this afternoon and Palace were expert at smothering their work.
In the end, it was all down to endeavour. Though not at their best, Arsenal 'kept on keeping on'.
It was just about enough.
Seconds after Jason Puncheon had been sent off in the 89th minute, Arsenal won a corner.
Palace lost a little concentration and Ramsey profited.
Not a great game, not a great performance but great spirit and desire.
Happy new season everyone.
SETTING THE SCENE
The sun was out, Emirates Stadium looked magnificent and the Arsenal were playing again – what more can you ask for?
Amid the smell of burgers and pies, there was a strong scent of optimism on the concourses before the game. Arsenal had summered well with new signings covering the majority of departures with something to spare.
Then, of course, there was Alexis.
The Chilean was arguably Arsenal’s biggest opening-day debutant since Dennis Bergkamp.
According to Wenger, Tony Pulis has performed a “miracle” in the second half of last season. But he had left on the eve of the current campaign.
However it was still his strong, disciplined Palace side from last term and they had added Premier League experience in the form of Hangeland and Fraizer Campbell over the summer.
Last season, Arsenal had lost to Aston Villa at this stage of the season and Palace were deceptively tough opponents for opening day.
Alexis caught the eye in the early stages by finding clever angles on the right flank and combining well with Debuchy.
But despite the intricacies of their play, Arsenal could not force an opening.
That would sum up the first half-hour.
The home side would pick away at the imposing and well-drilled Palace defence. However the visitors stood firm.
Ramsey had half a shout for a penalty when Scott Dann bundled him over and, on the half-hour, Jack Wilshere’s long-range shot was unconvincingly pushed around the post by the diving Julian Speroni.
Inbetween Arsenal huffed and puffed but could not blow down the Palace defence.
The visitors had only flashes in attack until they took the lead 10 minutes before the break.
It started when Wojciech Szczesny raced out to clear from Mile Jedinak’s through ball. His effort fell to straight to Marouane Chamakh, whose goalbound shot was scrambled away by Koscielny and Palace eventually won a corner.
Puncheon took it and Hangeland rose high at the near post to steer in a header.
Arsenal tried to raise themselves yet the goal just seemed to stiffen the visitors’ resolve.
However the home side would find something in the final seconds of the first half when Alexis floated over a free-kick and Koscielny ghosted in to score with a subtle header.
The equaliser did not change the pattern of the game.
Arsenal were on the offensive, Palace closed them down effectively.
It was energetic game yet it was stifled. Arsenal took the game to their opponents but were constantly rebuffed.
Chamakh might have been penalised for a handball in the area on the hour and the increasingly influential Alexis drove at Speroni after another give-and-go midway through the half.
Seconds later, Wenger made his last change – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for Wilshere.
With 15 minutes left, Arsenal found rare width when Monreal crossed from the left and the effort flashed past Giroud’s flailing leg at the near post.
The Frenchman then drove across the face of goal as Arsenal went forward until the end.
A minute from time their cause we helped when Puncheon received a second yellow card.
Then came the winner.
A cross from Oxlade-Chamberlain, Koscielny and Giroud head on, Debuchy’s shot on the turn. Ramsey could not miss.
Relief all round.
- Koscielny Goal!
- Gibbs 53
- Chambers Yellow Card
- Ramsey Goal!
- Wilshere 69
- Cazorla Yellow Card
- Sanogo 62
- Monreal 53
- Oxlade-Chamberlain 69
- Giroud 62
- Hangeland Goal!
- Kelly Yellow Card
- Dann 75
- Puncheon Yellow Card Red Card
- Bolasie 90
- Chamakh Yellow Card
- Campbell 85
- O'Keefe 90
- Delaney 75
- Gayle 85