Arsenal snatch late penalty winner to beat Southampton 2-1 at The Emirates
- Credit: Archant
There was drama at The Emirates as Arsenal beat a determined Southampton side 2-1 with a 90th minute penalty scored by Santi Cazorla to claim all three points this afternoon.
Arsene Wenger’s men celebrated wildly with the delighted crowd as the Spaniard netted the winner after being frustrated for long periods of the game.
The Gunners, bolstered by two new signings equalised a Dusan Tadic free-kick on 18 minutes – given as a Petr Cech own goal – with a spectacular Laurent Koscielny overhead kick with half an hour gone.
But despite applying increasing pressure throughout the rest of the game they couldn’t break down a resolute Saints defence – until the joyous 90th minute intervention by Cazorla.
The match started under dull, dank clouds and heavy rain as summer felt over today at The Emirates. The dreaded – and vacuous – transfer window is now firmly closed, domestic cricket is drawing to a thrilling end, and the September international break which invariably curtails a fledgling season is already a distant memory.
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Arsenal showed it was the start of a new era – as Wenger conceded when he confirmed the side he’s assembled is the oldest of his 20-year reign – by giving debuts to two new signings. Defender Shkodran Mustafi, in place of Rob Holding, and forward Lucas Perez ahead of Alexis Sanchez who returned from international action.
Per Mertesacker, Gabriel and Aaron Ramsey were missing again but Alex Iwobi was on the bench. Francis Coquelin was a surprise starter for Granit Xhaka who looked assured in his last Arsenal run-out during the 3-1 victory at Watford.
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Saints keeper Fraser Forster started despite withdrawing from England duty with an arm injury.
Left-back Ryan Bertrand also played after a knee problem, but Jeremy Pied remains sidelined.
Sofiane Boufal, who joined Saints for a club-record fee recently, may have to wait up to a month for his debut as he regains fitness following a long-term knee injury.
A largely shapeless – if energetic – start by both teams saw them size each other up like two wary but willing pugilists, as if in tribute to the Golovkin/Brook fight later tonight.
Wenger disciple Claude Puel – who nearly took his modest Nice side to the Champions League last term before being lured away from the French Riviera to the South Coast – stood motionless on the edge of his box for a long spell.
He looked on professor-like and studious, evoking memories of a certain Alsace Frenchman doing the same when he first came to this country – at least until the madness and intensity of the Premier League consumed him.
On 18 minutes Tadic, fed the ball through to Nathan Redmond who was scythed down by Nacho Monreal on the edge of the box in a central position as referee Bobby Madley awarded a free kick, and yellow card against the left-back
Tadic then lifted a sweet left foot shot over the wall. Cech could only manage to palm the ball onto the bar, and then promptly fell on it, squeezing it into the net to make it 1-0 to Southampton with 18 minutes gone. Much to the delight of the 3,000 travelling Saints fans.
After a spell of prolonged pressure with neat interplay from Ozil, Walcot and Oxlade-Chamberlain, leading to a corner, Laurent Koscielny equalised to make it 1-1 just before the half-hour mark.
The fact the defender scored with a tremendous overhead kick from 12 yards that beat a surprised Forster only added to the release of joy in the ground.
If his unexpected action came as an unwanted surprise to the stunned – if slack – Southampton defence it was probably the best present the centre half could have received on his 31st birthday.
As the rain started sheeting down again the first half slid to an end with Arsenal finishing with momentum, if not the lead.
The home side upped the tempo at the start of the second period – in between Forster trying to halt the play by taking an inordinate time to complete a place kick.
Noise levels rose to fever pitch but the second goal would not come despite a Bellerin pile driver from the edge of the area that flew inches wide.
Perez – who had a quiet debut but appears to have undoubted pace – and Oxlade-Chamberlain were withdrawn on 61 minutes for Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez.
With 25 minutes left Shane Long should have scored for Saints when he lifted the ball over Cech but wide of the post. Two minutes late Sanchez fired a powerful shot just over the visitors bar.
There was further frustration when Sanchez fed Cazorla, who then drilled the ball into the box. Giroud looked well placed, but unfortunately slipped. It was shaping up to be that kind of match.
Monreal then pulled a shot wide, which he struck from the edge of the box after showing good athleticism running from deep.
Cech then showed his reactions have not significantly dulled by pulling off a fine double save with seven minutes to go, including using his feet to block an effort from Long – evoking the spirit of another fine keeper who came to Arsenal from London rivals late in his career, Pat Jennings.
However, Giroud then tangled with Fonte in the box on 90 minutes – and referee Madely awarded a penalty.
And despite a delay as Koscielny was treated for a head injury, Cazorla then struck the winner to make it 2-1 to The Arsenal.
Despite the Saints battling rearguard action, and flashes of real danger, it was the least an Arsenal side – which never gave up – deserved.
With PSG at the Parc de Princes to come on Tuesday in their first game in this season’s Champions League the triumph came at exactly the right time.
Cech, Koscielny, Perez (Giroud 61), Ozil, Walcott (Iwobi 75), Oxlade-Chamberlain (Alexis 61), Monreal (booked), Cazorla (booked), Mustafi, Bellerin. Coquelin
Forster (booked), Cedric, Clasie (Hojbjerg), Fonte, Davis, Rodriguez, Tadic (Ward-Prowse 79), Romeu, Van Dijk, Bertrand, Redmond
Referee: Bobby Madley
Tickets sold: 59,662