Arsenal on Saturday began their new Premier League campaign with a nervy 2-1 home win over Nottingham Forest after first-half goals from Eddie Nketiah and Bukayo Saka.
Forest’s and Nigeria’s Taiwo Awoniyi gave Arsenal a heart-in-mouth moment with a late goal.
But the victory moved last year’s runners-up level with leaders Manchester City on three points but behind on goal difference after the champions beat Burnley 3-0 on Friday.
Kickoff was delayed by 30 minutes due to turnstile issues at Emirates Stadium which prevented fans from getting in on time.
But once the game kicked off Arsenal shot out of the blocks, dominating possession and cutting through Forest’s defence.
The home side got away with an early mistake at the back which allowed Brennan Johnson to run through on goal.
But the forward blazed his shot over, leaving manager Steve Cooper with his hands on his head.
Arsenal’s persistence paid off and they put an end to Forest’s stubborn resistance.
This was when a sublime pirouette from Gabriel Martinelli put two defenders in a spin and set up Nketiah, who fired home past former Arsenal keeper Matt Turner.
They doubled the lead six minutes later, when 21-year-old Saka, received the ball at the edge of the box and curled in his shot from distance, giving Turner no chance to make a save.
“It was a great bit of skill by Martinelli to get through… It’s about being calm and getting that half a yard. I’m happy it went in.
“We know he (Saka) has that kind of quality, we’re really happy to have him in our team,” Nketiah told reporters.
The second half began on a sour note for Arsenal; this was when their new 40-million-euro (43.78 million dollars) signing, Jurrien Timber, hobbled off holding the back of his knee having suffered a knock just before halftime.
Arsenal took their foot off the gas but club record signing Declan Rice nearly marked his league debut with a goal.
This was when the midfielder had two attempts, though Turner denied the 105-million-pound recruit on both occasions.
Forest then scored against the run of play when they launched a counter-attack from an Arsenal set-piece.
As the defence scrambled to recover, Anthony Elanga sprinted down the left and found Awoniyi in the box who made it 2-1.
The final few minutes were frantic at both ends but Arsenal eventually held on for the three points.
“They crept back in late, they made a few changes that helped.
“Obviously, it was a bit of a nervy finish but we defended really well and we deserve the three points,” Nketiah added. (Reuters/NAN)