HOW WE SAW IT
Alexandre Lacazette scored his first goal for us just 15 minutes into his Arsenal career as we beat Sydney FC 2-0 in front of a sell-out crowd at ANZ Stadium.
It may have been 40 years since we last visited Australia, but the reception we have received since touching down here has been something else.
This picture-perfect city has been turned into a sea of red, with large, vociferous crowds greeting us at every turn as the excitement continued to build in the lead-up to this game.
By kick-off, ANZ Stadium – the location for Cathy Freeman’s unforgettable 2000 Olympic gold-medal run and Jonny Wilkinson’s last-gasp Rugby World Cup winning kick three years later – was jumping.
There were only four minutes on the clock when Per Mertesacker – 47 days on from that memorable Emirates FA Cup final performance – was back in the spotlight as he scored our first goal of 2017/18… with an acrobatic effort.
The club captain was in the right place at the right time after Mesut Ozil’s corner was headed on and he swivelled and flicked the ball over his head and into the bottom corner.
We remained on top for the rest of the first half, going close through Theo Walcott, Francis Coquelin and Joe Willock, but it was not all one-way traffic and Sydney nearly equalised when Matthew Simon hit the post from a tight angle.
The second half continued in the same vein, with Bramall going close before we were awarded a penalty after Walcott’s shot was stopped by a defender in the area.
The replays on the big screen suggested it had hit his back, but any sense of injustice soon dissipated as Welbeck’s spot kick was palmed away by Sydney keeper Andrew Redmayne.
Eddie Nketiah, Alex Iwobi and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all went close after stepping off the bench, before Lacazette scored what we hope will be the first of many with seven minutes remaining.
THE NEW BOYS
All eyes were on Sead Kolasinac and Lacazette, prior to kick off – but it was only the former that would start here.
The free-transfer signing from Schalke was named as the left-sided member of the back three and delivered an accomplished display, calmly dealing with any danger that came his way and linking up well with Bramall down the flank.
We had to wait until the 68th minute for a sighting of Lacazette, but his introduction added further frisson to a fantastic occasion.
The huge roar that greeted his arrival spoke of the excitement his signing has generated, and 15 minutes after he stepped off the bench he had his first goal in Arsenal colours, slotting in from eight yards out after good work from Iwobi.
Moments later he played Oxlade-Chamberlain in on goal with a well-weighted pass, before the England international was bundled off the ball in the area, as the France forward continued to impress.
It may be very early days for these two – and they will face much bigger tests in the weeks and months ahead – but this was a highly-encouraging start for both.
NELSON CATCHES THE EYE
When Arsene Wenger name-checks a youngster as one to watch, you know you have a serious talent on your hands – and Reiss Nelson certainly underlined his credentials here.
The 17-year-old may have been playing in an unfamiliar right wing-back role but his stellar performance gave an exciting glimpse into the future.
Nelson was an effervescent box of tricks, effortlessly beating his markers at will and his pace and power down the right flank caused all sorts of problems for the hosts.
One particular run, early in the second half, saw him leave two defenders for dead before he looked up and stood up a lovely ball across goal that Cohen Bramall volleyed at goal – although it was pushed aside.
It spoke of Nelson’s precocious performance that the senior members of the side, the likes of Mesut Ozil, Welbeck and Walcott always looked for him as an out ball down the right.
We may have been eagerly anticipating the first sightings of Kolasinac and Lacazette prior to kick, but the name on the lips of many leaving the ANZ Stadium was that of Nelson.
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