Gunners survive late scare to see off Forest on opening day
Arsenal 2 (Nketiah 26, Saka 32)
Nottingham Forest 1 (Awoniyi 82)
Arsenal survived a late scare to see of plucky Nottingham Forest 2-1 at the Emirates on the opening day of the Premier League season.
First-half goals from Eddie Nketiah and a beauty from Bukayo Saka seemed to have put the Gunners on course for an easy home win.
Substitute Taiwo Awoniyi pulled a goal back with less than 10 minutes of normal time remaining to give the Gunners a nervy ending to this game, but they saw it out for the win.
Brennan Johnson had a glorious chance to put Forest ahead in the 11th minute. The Arsenal defence pushed out following a header through from Willy Boly, but were too late to catch Johnson offside.
But with only Aaron Ramsdale to beat, Johnson fluffed his lines and fired over the bar.
Arsenal took the lead in the 26th minute, with their first shot at the goal of former Gunners’ ‘keeper Matt Turner.
Gabriel Martinelli twisted and turned his man down the left and found Nketiah, whose shot took the slightest of deflections off Joe Worrall and beyond Turner.
Five minutes later Arsenal were almost two up, Kai Havertz’s cross nicked off Nketiah’s toes at the last.
But the fans didn’t have long to wait for the second – after 32 minutes. Saka cut inside his man as he so often does, and unleashed a left-footed curler into the top left-hand corner. It was a beauty. One of his very best.
Arsenal were purring by now and going for the kill, Nketiah seeing a shot blocked before Declan Rice tried his luck from distance – an effort comfortably saved by Turner.
Forest were finding things tough – as most teams with only 15 per cent possession here in the first half would do, and were relying on increasingly scarce breakaways, which rarely threatened.
Jurien Timber was replaced by Takehiro Tomiyasu early in the second half for Arsenal after suffering a recurrence of a knee injury he appeared to pick up late in the first half.
The second period started quietly, Forest again having the first real effort of the half, when Ola Aina’s deflected shot had Aaron Ramsdale scrambling across his line.
Turner then saved another long-range Rice shot at the other end, before the former West Ham man almost found the net thanks to a horrid miskick into the ground which looped up and was held by the goalkeeper.
Forest were back into it thanks to the substitute pairing of Awoniyi and Anthony Elanga. Elanga’s blistering pace saw him tear down the left wing and cross the ball into Awoniyi, who lost Ben White to poke past Ramsdale.
But despite the seven added minutes – which turned out to be eight – the Gunners held firm.
Pictured top: The new statue of Arsene Wenger outside the Emirates Stadium (Picture: Charlie Stong)
Arsenal: Ramsdale, Saliba, White, Partey, Saka, Odegaard, Martinelli (Gabriel 86), Timber (Tomiyasu, 50), Nketiah (Trossard 73), Havertz, Rice
Forest: Turner, Worrall (Wood 90), Mangala (Kouyate 90), Gibbs-White, Johnson (Elanga 80), Yates, Aurier, McKenna, Danilo (Awoniyi 72), Boly, Aina (Williams 72)
Referee: Michael Oliver