Monday, September 28, 2020

Three goals three points for Arsenal in the season opener against Fulham

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Arsenal’s Gabonese forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (C) scores his third goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Fulham and Arsenal at Craven Cottage in London on September 12, 2020 (Photo by Ben STANSALL / POOL / AFP).

Arsenal got off to a great start to the new Premier League season when Gabriel Magalhaes scored a debut goal and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored a stun in Saturday’s 3-0 win at Fulham.

Just 48 days after last season’s late completion, the Premier League is back and Arsenal immediately started with the kind of show of confidence that has become their hallmark since Mikel Arteta took office.

Arsenal’s fluid attack was too incisive for the promoted Fulham and Alexandre Lacazette gave the visitors an early lead at Craven Cottage.

Brazilian defender Gabriel scored Arsenal’s second after the break in his first appearance since signing from Lille in the final season.

Aubameyang added the final flourish with a typically eye-catching punch that emphasized why Arsenal are so desperate for the Gabon forward to sign a contract extension that expires at the end of the season.

Arteta has said that fans concerned about Aubameyang leaving can “relax” because he is “very optimistic” that his captain will agree to a new deal soon.

With former Chelsea winger Willian giving a pair of assists on his debut, it was the ideal way for Arsenal to start a season that seems full of promise after last season’s FA Cup triumph.

Although his eighth place in the Premier League ranked him as Arsenal’s lowest finishing position since 1995, Arteta had little to do with it after taking command in December following the dismal reign of Unai Emery.

The former Manchester City assistant coach has been a much-needed breath of fresh air for Arsenal and pushing for a place in the top four shouldn’t be beyond his revitalized squad this season.

While the continued absence of fans due to the coronavirus and the shorter than usual break have taken some anticipation from the new campaign, Arsenal were more willing than most to get back into action after beating Chelsea in the FA Cup final.

The Gunners had underscored their rapid improvement by defeating Premier League champion Liverpool on penalties at the Community Shield last month and Fulham was no match for them.

– Fulham crumbling –
The only dark cloud for Arteta was a pre-match dispute between Dani Ceballos and Eddie Nketiah.

The pair had to be separated by Arsenal teammates after Nketiah reacted to an aggressive challenge from Ceballos as a group of players exchanged passes in warm-up.

Arteta must have been alarmed when Ainsley Maitland-Niles landed a weak backward pass that caused confusion between Gabriel and goalkeeper Bernd Leno called from the start.

Arsenal
Arsenal’s Gabonese forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (R) celebrates his third goal with Arsenal’s Brazilian midfielder Willian (L) during the English Premier League soccer match between Fulham and Arsenal at Craven Cottage in London on 12 September 2020 (Photo by Ben STANSALL) / POOL / AFP)

Aboubakar Kamara intervened, but Leno managed to save his feet before the Fulham striker could fire.

Arteta’s concerns were calmed when Lacazette scored in the ninth minute.

Granit Xkaha’s shot forced a failed punt from Tim Ream and Willian lunged with a shot from close range that Fulham goalkeeper Marek Rodak could only push past Lacazette, who scored virtually from the goal line.

He made Lacazette the first player to score the first goal of a Premier League campaign twice after the French forward also scored the first goal in 2017-18.

Willian was denied a debut goal when his low free kick struck the base of the post.

Gabriel was enjoying a quiet debut and the 22-year-old proved he can also be a goal threat when he doubled Arsenal’s lead in the 49th minute.

Willian stepped over the corner and Gabriel showed his desire as he towered over Michael Hector for a header attempt that hit his shoulder as he crashed into the net.

Fulham’s defense was crumbling as the recently demolished Craven Cottage stands and Aubameyang finished them off in the 57th minute with a carbon copy of his Community Shield goal against Liverpool.

As at Wembley, Willian’s superb cross pass caught Aubameyang and he was allowed to rush uncontrollably into the box before rounding a good shot into the far corner.

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