Arsenal 4-3 Leicester: Supersubs Giroud and Ramsey win incredible Premier League opener
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
Arsenal won an enthralling game 4-3 after being behind against Leicester City until the final six minutes of this incredible match.
Substitute Olivier Giroud brought the house down with a headed winner following fellow replacement Aaron Ramsey making it 3-3 on 84 minutes.
Alexandre Lacazette put the home side ahead on a minute before Shinji Okazaki levelled shortly afterwards before Jamie Vardy made it 2-1 on the half hour.
Danny Welbeck then made it 2-2 on the stroke of half time before Vardy netted a second from a Riyad Mahrez corner on 56 minutes.
In the pubs and pie shops on the Holloway Road, outside the canons from the Woolwich Arsenal, in the concourses, and seats paid for with hard-earned cash old acquaintances were being renewed – such is the ritual of the first game of the season.
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Familiar faces you spend nine months a year sharing the pure adrenaline of the highest of highs, and the utter despair of the lowest of lows as viewed again for the first time since last spring.
Perfunctory enquires over family and work soon over it is down to the serious business of football. Gossip is exchanged, views given, opinions shared and the rhythm of life for many for the next three quarters of a year is quickly renewed after a hiatus, some relish, while others despair of.
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Everyone who was here today for kick-off at one of the world’s great stadiums, in grandeur if not atmosphere, was excited. Of course the question would be, well why wouldn’t you be?
A brand new season, new players, a new kit, the novelty fills hard-bitten characters with an adrenaline so missing in ordinary life. But after the fractious spring Arsenal and Wenger experienced last term not all is good in the state of North London – despite the unexpected joy of another FA Cup triumph and Community Shield.
Yet for a club of Arsenal’s bearing the Premier League is the only bauble for many. Or at least a genuine challenge with a team of genuine title challengers – the move from beloved Highbury was predicated on such assumptions.
The start of a new season offers hope above all else and record signing Alexandre Lacazette made an immediate impression on his league debut.
Hector Bellerin made inroads down the right flank before feeding Mohamed Elneny who curled the ball into the box with his right foot.
It was hard to tell whether it was an excellent cross or poor defending as the former Lyon player barely had to move as he headed past Kasper Schmeichel to make it 1-0-to-the-Arsenal with only 93 seconds on the clock.
The crowd was at fever pitch with their noise as they celebrated the perfect start as the Frenchman became the seventh Arsenal player to score on his Premier League debut.
How different does the eruption of joy mingled with unbridled optimism sound, rather than relief? But if ever the happiness from a goal could be described as short-lived, Leicester’s equaliser fewer than 120 seconds later was it.
A deep cross swung into the box saw Harry Maguire head the ball back from the byline into the path of one of the unsung stars of the Foxes never-to-be-forgotten title win, the always-lively Japanese forward Shinji Okazaki.
The 31-year-old former Mainz player made no mistake by out-jumping a static Granit Xhaka to nod the ball over Cech and a clutch of defenders to make it 1-1 with barely three minutes gone.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who could be a crucial player at wing-back this season for Arsenal then drove forward on the left before unleashing a powerful shot that narrowly flew over the apex of bar and Schmeichel’s near post.
There was no time to draw breath as both sides probed with an intensity that suggested they had been devouring raw steaks rather than Love Island over the summer.
Marc Albrighton then drove down the right before firing an inviting left-footed cross into the path of Jamie Vardy – remember him – as he showed his predatory instincts by sending the ball into the net to make it 2-1 to Leicester on the half hour.
The travelling Foxes fans sang lustily. After their remarkable title win two years ago followed by a dismal showing last year it was difficult to tell whether they were being ironic or hailing an early charge by singing ‘We’re going to win the league’.
As it was Arsenal battled for parity, working the ball around the visitors box with fluency, but in all honestly when was it ever thus?
However as the clock ticked towards half-time with frustration starting to enter the tone of fans voices, Danny Welbeck, another who is due for an influential season equalised right on the whistle following an assist by Sead Kolasinac.
After the opening first 45 minutes of the season when both teams started all guns blazing 2-2 at the break was a fair reflection of proceedings.
The second half signalled a resumption in the frenetic play and on 56 minutes Riyad Mahrez swung in a left-footed corner that Vardy glanced over Petr Cech and into the far corner to make it 3-2 to Leicester.
Yet again Arsenal’s zonal marking left a lot to be desired.
Bellerin then had a chance smothered by the Foxes Danish keeper in an emphatic block reminiscent of his father at his peak.
Wenger made a double substitution on 65 minutes bringing on Aaron Ramsey for Elneny and Olivier Giroud for Rob Holding as his side looked to go offer a more direct threat.
It was a move that ultimately won the game.
It nearly paid dividends moments later when the Welshman moved in front of Welbeck to meet a centre but his header went narrowly wide.
Wenger’s final throw of the dice saw him make his third substitution with 15 minutes remaining as Theo Walcott came on for Danny Welbeck.
Ramsey was not to be denied and with six minutes remaining he equalised to make it 3-3 after a superb low finish following a great touch to tee it up from a Xhaka cross.
Moments later Giroud brought the house down with a well-directed header that emphatically bounced over the line despite Leicester appeals as Arsenal fans loudly proclaimed ‘We are top of the league’.
As the Emirates hailed him by adapting that well-worn Beatles anthem ‘Hey Jude’, the feeling was a mere ten minutes earlier, ‘Help’ would have been more appropriate.
How football enthralls. How it maddens. How it entertains.
For now after this gripping opening night encounter that is all that matters.
Arsenal: Cech, Holding (Giroud), Monreal, Kolasinac, Bellerin, Elneny (Ramsey), Xhaka, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Welbeck (Walcott), Ozil, Lacazette.
Subs: Ramsey, Giroud, Ospina, Walcott, Iwobi, Mustafi, Coquelin.
Leicester: Schmeichel, Simpson, Morgan, Maguire, Fuchs, Mahrez, Ndidi, James (Iheanacho), Albrighton, Okazaki (Amartey), Vardy.
Subs: Chilwell, Gray, Iheanacho, King, Hamer, Amartey, Slimani.
Referee: Mike Dean