Sydney FC 0-2 Arsenal

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Arsenal in Sydney

‘It’s key Lacazette got it off his shoulders'

It didn’t take Alexandre Lacazette long to get off the mark for us - 15 minutes to be exact - as he met Alex Iwobi’s cross to double our lead against Sydney FC at ANZ Stadium.

Arsene Wenger feels that although the match was a friendly, it could be a key moment in helping the France international settle into life at the club.

“It is important for him to get that [first goal] off his shoulders because you expect to score if you are a striker,” Wenger said in his post-match press conference. 

“You could see that he was happy but overall what we were looking for was to play at pace and to develop our collective game and for long periods in the game that was quite good for us. We had tough opposition because they fought for every ball but at the end of the day their goalkeeper was the man of the match.”

Wenger was also pleased with Danny Welbeck’s display as he went close several times during a bright performance.

“I would say that he worked very hard,” the manager said. “He made many chances in the first half and was so keen to score that sometimes he looked too much for power. 

“He put into the game what we expect of him. He’s a great team player and I expect him to have big season. He was out for such a long time that I hope this will be a positive season for him.”

Arsenal in Sydney

Per's overhead and Lacazette's first goal

Our pre-season finally got underway on Thursday, when we beat Sydney FC 2-0 at ANZ Stadium.

It took Per Mertesacker less than four minutes to give us the lead with an improvised overhead kick, before new signing Alexandre Lacazette capped an encouraging debut by sliding home a second late on.

Check out our video above to see both moments, plus more highlights from the game, from our camera operator’s unique perspective.

Arsenal in Sydney

Watch Alexandre Lacazette’s first Arsenal goal

Alexandre Lacazette scored his first Arsenal goal as we beat Sydney FC 2-0 at ANZ Stadium on Thursday. 

Our newest signing struck just 15 minutes after coming off the bench to secure our first win of pre-season, after Per Mertesacker had opened the scoring with an overhead kick.

Press 'Play' to watch our 12-minute highlights package above, or our bitesize round-up below, while you can also:

Post-Match Report

Arsenal 2-0 Sydney FC: How we saw it

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.

Arsenal in Sydney

How good was Reiss Nelson in Sydney?

Reiss Nelson paused a while before giving his answer. “I’ll probably say 80,000, yeah!” he eventually decided.
 

He’d been asked what makes him more nervous - singing an initiation song in front of his teammates or playing in front of a huge crowd as he did in Sydney on Thursday.

In truth, it seems neither particularly bothers him. Nelson felt good about his singing performance in the hotel and took his chance with aplomb at the ANZ Stadium where a huge crowd witnessed a display of pace, touch, movement and assertiveness.

“I’m really happy, more happy with the performance and so excited that I got on and showed what I can do,” Nelson told Arsenal.com. 

“The boss put me there [at wing back], I think for the last week or so now. I’ve got used to it now and have just had to adapt to that. It’s not my normal position but I don’t mind at the moment.

“The role is up and down. You’ve got to be very clever when you attack, knowing when to attack and when to defend, knowing when to tuck in.”

For someone in the first week of his first tour, Nelson has settled fast. “It’s really good, I’m really excited,” he said. “The fans have been great and hopefully I go on many more.

“Sometimes it helps having other young players around. But I think the senior ones help me a lot as well, so it’s been really good.”

So how about that initiation song? A tradition for new players, Nelson ganged up with two other tour debutants to perform in front of the squad.

“Yeah, I did do it, unfortunately, on the first night - me, Eddie [Nketiah] and Joe [Willock] sang ‘One Dance’ by Drake. I was the best so far, so it’s alright!”

Arsenal in Sydney

Wenger - Nelson behaves like a natural

Reiss Nelson

Playing in front of 80,000 fans and sharing a pitch with a global superstar like Mesut Ozil, it would be easy for a 17-year-old to be overawed by the situation.

But there was no trace of nerves in Reiss Nelson’s performance against Sydney FC, and his confident showing certainly caught the eye of his manager.

“Since I’ve been in the game I’ve understood that you either have that [confidence] at 17 years of age or you don’t,” Arsene Wenger said. 

“Some of the players I’ve had in my career have turned 18 years old and it seems natural for them to be on the pitch. They just think, ‘Let’s play’ and Reiss behaves like that.

“They all did well today, Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock as well had a very strong performance. They are young, just 17 or 18 years old, so that is very promising. 

“Pre-season is there for that, for me to understand how close they are. It’s the first game, it’s a bit early. What they’ve shown tonight means they have the chance of being very, very close.”

Arsenal in Sydney

Per - I was inspired by Gerd Muller

Per Mertesacker was inspired by his father’s hero when he scored our first goal of pre-season.

Gerd Muller, regarded as one of Germany’s finest ever players, scored 68 goals in 62 appearances for his country, including 14 in two World Cups.

Mertesacker’s goals are rather more rare but he invoked the spirit of Muller with a spectacular overhead kick against Sydney FC.

“It looked very slow - I saw the replay!” said Mertesacker. “I don’t know if you know the name, but in Germany we had a goalscorer and his name was Gerd Muller. He scored 80 per cent of his goals like that, with his back to the goal. He was kind of my role model in that situation.

“You have to have heroes when you are young but I think that was a hero from my father. I listened to stories so that I could implement that into my game today.

”Our second goal against Sydney was scored by Alexandre Lacazette, just 15 minutes after the new signing came off the bench.

“It’s great for himself, to get going that early,” said Per. “He’s only been training for four sessions. 

“It’s good for him and it creates a bond between us and that’s what we want. We want the spirit and everyone to get involved. That is needed for a long, long season. 

“We’ll try to get more efficient in the next couple of weeks to prepare for the next stages we have. We have three more games here on the tour, then we have the Emirates Cup, the Community Shield and the start of the season. It goes very quickly.” 

Arsenal in Sydney

‘At the moment, Per does everything!’

Per Mertesacker can’t stay away from the spotlight right now.

Cup final hero… a big career move… and now a spectacular overhead kick in our first game of the summer.

Per’s early goal set up a 2-0 win over Sydney FC at the ANZ Stadium and Arsene Wenger once again found himself praising the club captain.

“At the moment, Per does everything!” he said. “He defends, he scores goals, so it’s a moment of his career where it’s all going well for him. We are all happy for him.”

Per’s Arsenal career has one season to run. Alexandre Lacazette’s Arsenal career is just beginning and his clinical finish wrapped up the victory - just 15 minutes into his debut.

“It’s never a coincidence when people score goals because they’re in the right place at the right moment,” said Wenger. “It’s also good that he got a goal straight away, because people wait for you to score when you’re a striker. It’s good that’s out of the way.”

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