Defender dismissed as Arsenal slump to opening day defeat by Aston Villa

Laurent Koscielny, Arsenal.

Laurent Koscielny, Arsenal. - Credit: EMPICS Sport

Premier League: Arsenal 1 Aston Villa 3

Arsenal had defender Laurent Koscielny sent off as they slid to their first home defeat on the opening day for 20 years.

Olivier Giroud gave the Gunners an early lead at Emirates Stadium, but Christian Benteke’s brace put Villa 2-1 up before Koscielny was dismissed for his second booking in quick succession.

The first of those was one of several controversial decisions by referee Anthony Taylor – and Antonio Luna compounded Arsenal’s misery as he netted a late third goal on the counter-attack.

Giroud’s excellent pre-season form continued in the sixth minute as he tucked home from close range after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had galloped away on the left-hand side and cut the ball back.

With the tension lifted by that goal, Arsenal looked comfortable as they stroked the ball around and pressed the visitors back.

Apart from a couple of dangerous runs down the left from Fabian Delph, Villa never threatened and their equaliser, midway through the first half, came against the run of play.

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The Gunners failed to halt the run of Gabriel Agbonlahor and he was brought down by Wojciech Szczesny, with referee Taylor opting to book the keeper and award a penalty.

Szczesny appeared to have redeemed himself by diving to his right to parry Benteke’s spot-kick, but the rebound spun up for the Belgian to head into the unguarded net.

A howler from the Arsenal goalkeeper almost presented Villa with a second goal before half-time as he misdirected a clearing header to Benteke, who teed up Ashley Westwood for a 25-yard chip.

But Szczesny got back to claw the ball behind and, despite a couple of half-chances for Oxlade-Chamberlain – neither of which seriously troubled Brad Guzan – the teams went in level at the break.

Tomas Rosicky might have restored Arsenal’s advantage seven minutes after the restart, latching onto Giroud’s flick but firing over with only Guzan to beat.

Almost immediately, at the other end, Delph was unlucky not to put Villa in front with a left-foot drive that beat Szczesny and struck the post, then rolled across the goal-line but stayed out.

But the visitors were ahead just after the hour as the referee ruled that what looked like a flawless challenge by Koscielny on Agbonlahor was worthy of a second spot-kick.

This time Benteke netted at his first attempt, sending Szczesny the wrong way and sending the home supporters into gloom – which turned to anger five minutes later.

Koscielny, who had been yellow-carded for his tackle on Agbonlahor, earned himself a second booking by lunging at the same player – and suddenly Arsenal were down to 10 men.

Despite that, they were twice denied by Guzan, who came out to smother Rosicky’s close-range shot and then palmed Santi Cazorla’s effort onto the crossbar.

Arsenal should have had a penalty of their own when Jack Wilshere was held back by Villa captain Ron Vlaar – but it was the visitors’ day and they sealed victory five minutes from time when Luna broke to collect Andreas Weimann’s pass and fire past Szczesny.

Arsenal: Szczesny; Sagna (Podolski 90), Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs (Jenkinson 29); Ramsey, Rosicky; Walcott, Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Cazorla 45); Giroud.