Arsenal 4-3 Leicester: Gunners leave it late as Premier League returns with a bang
By Lewis Jones at Emirates Stadium
Last Updated: 12/08/17 7:41pm
Arsenal produced a stunning late comeback to beat Leicester 4-3 as the Premier League returned in thrilling fashion on Friday night.
Arsene Wenger's men were 3-2 down with seven minutes remaining but goals from substitutes Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud stole the game from under Leicester's noses.
Big-money signing Alexandre Lacazette took just two minutes to score on his debut but he was outshone by the visitor's No 9 as Jamie Vardy scored twice against the team that came close to signing him last summer.
In what was a pulsating start to the new season, which was kicking off for the first time on a Friday, Leicester equalised within three minutes of Lacazette's opener through Shinji Okazaki and then took a shock lead through Vardy.
Arsenal responded just before the break through Danny Welbeck but Vardy headed home from a Riyad Mahrez corner on 59 minutes. As the home fans started to become restless, Arsenal staged a late fightback with Ramsey and Giroud both finding the net from close range within two minutes of each other to send the roof off the Emirates.
Those that have been craving Premier League football over the summer were given a sweet release inside the opening five minutes with two goals - one at either end.
Arsenal handed Premier League debuts to Sead Kolasinac and Alexandre Lacazette as Arsene Wenger continued to play three at the back. Alexis Sanchez - linked with a move away - was missing with an abdominal injury.
Leicester decided to leave £25million signing Kelechi Iheanacho on the bench but Harry Maguire was handed his debut. Despite looking on the verge of joining Roma, Riyad Mahrez started on the right wing.
Lacazette averaged a goal every 86 minutes for Lyon last season in Ligue 1 but needed just two minutes to get his season rolling at a jumping Emirates Stadium.
Mohamed Elneny whipped the ball in from the right and there in the box waiting was the Frenchman, who stooped to divert a clever header into the far corner. It rekindled memories of Ian Wright at Highbury such was his poacher-like finish.
The home fans' joy lasted just three minutes. Marc Albrighton sent a ball in from the right which new signing Harry Maguire did brilliantly to loop back into play at the back post. Okazaki was waiting out-jumped Granit Xhaka to head home from close range.
Despite Arsenal's domination of the ball, Leicester were back to their title-winning best on the counter attack.
They pressed high on 29 minutes and stole the ball off the Arsenal defence before moving it out wide to Albrighton. The former Aston Villa man caught Rob Holding napping in the middle with a tasty ball into the six yard box which Vardy gobbled up from close range.
Arsenal: Cech (6), Holding (5), Monreal (5), Kolasinac (5), Bellerin (5), Elneny (6), Xhaka (6), Oxlade-Chamberlain (7), Ozil (7), Welbeck (8), Lacazette (8)
Subs: Ramsey (8), Giroud (8)
Leicester: Schmeichel (6), Simpson (7), Morgan (5), Maguire (7), Fuchs (5), Mahrez (7), Ndidi (7), James (6), Albrighton (7), Okazaki (7), Vardy (8)
Subs: Iheanacho (6), Gray (6), Amartey (6)
Man of the match: Alexandre Lacazette
You could feel the tension in the stands rising with every passing minute of sloppy Arsenal play. A goal was required and Welbeck stepped up just before the break to ease the restlessness in the stands.
Mesut Ozil showed a fleet-of-foot on the edge of the box and the play developed inside the box before the German squared a fantastic ball to Welbeck - which took Kasper Schmeichel out of the game. The Arsenal striker couldn't miss.
The equaliser would presumably set the platform for Arsenal to step on the gas in the second period, but it was the visitors who pressed on. Petr Cech had to be quick off his line to stop a surging Riyad Mahrez run before flying to his left to push a long range effort wide from the same player.
Cech could do nothing to stop Vardy on 59 minutes - although his defence should have.
Mahrez slung over a near post corner which found Vardy in three yards of space. Nacho Monreal looked at Holding while Xhaka looked at Monreal. This left Vardy with the simple task of flicking home from eight yards out.
Arsenal looked nervous in their bid to equalise, prompting Wenger to call from Ramsey and Giroud from the bench - and they repaid their manager's faith.
After a spell of pressure inside the Leicester box, Ramsey controlled at the far post and drilled the ball beyond Schmeichel with seven minutes left.
Arsenal now smelt blood and went for the kill.
From a right-wing corner Giroud rose highest to head the ball over the line, via the crossbar, with goal-line technology confirming the goal.
It sent the Emirates into delirium.
If you didn't know already, the Premier League is back.
Man of the match
Alexandre Lacazette: Have Arsenal found the fox in the box they've been searching for? Strong, quick and very nimble on the ball, the striker was a handful on his debut as the Gunners didn't seem to miss the hustle and bustle of Alexis Sanchez. He took his goal like a natural born goalscorer, too.
Wenger on Giroud: "I love the man and the player because he is a fantastic guy, he loves the club and he does not want to leave and I am happy that he wants to stay.
"But at some stage I opened the door for him because I knew that I had many strikers, but he is really loved here and we really love him and in the end he decided to stay."
Craig Shakespeare: "I think when teams make substitutions from the corners, it can cause a bit of confusion. That's not making any excuses because when subs go on, they are given jobs and I expect them to pass on information.
"If you look at the third goal, I'm a bit disappointed with the handball leading up to it but that aside, once you get the corner, you have to defend it better."
Lacazette scored with his first shot (and second touch) as a Premier League player; just 1:34 in to the game.
Lacazette is just the seventh player to score on his Premier League debut for Arsenal; after Kevin Campbell, Steve Bould, Fredrik Ljungberg, Emmanuel Adebayor, Samir Nasri & Thomas Vermaelen.
Olivier Giroud's goal was his 50th in all competitions at the Emirates Stadium for Arsenal.
Since the start of last season, Giroud has scored seven Premier League goals as a substitute - three more than any other player in this period.
Arsenal travel to Stoke City next Saturday evening for a tough clash with Mark Hughes' men.
Leicester host new boys Brighton and Hove Albion at the King Power Stadium.