Arsenal: Runarsson, Cedric, Mustafi, Mari, Kolasinac, Maitland-Niles, Nelson, Elneny, Pepe, Nketiah, Lacazette
Subs: Leno, Macey, Tierney, Saka, Ceballos, Willian, Holding, Chambers, Willock, Smith Rowe, Balogun, Azeez
Goals from Alexandre Lacazette, Pablo Mari, Eddie Nketiah and Emile Smith Rowe gave Arsenal a 4-1 win over Rapid Vienna at the Emirates this evening.
As usual there was heavy rotation with a first start of the season for Pablo Mari, while Calum Chambers made the bench.
The Gunners dominated possession in the early stages, cheered on by the 2,000 fans allowed in the stadium for the first time since March, and there was an early goal when Alexandre Lacazette thumped home from 30 yards for his first goal since September. 1-0.
Shkodran Mustafi missed a great chance to double the lead when he headed a Nicolas Pepe cross wide with the goal at his mercy, but fellow centre-half Mari did just that in the 18th minute, flicking home smartly from a Reiss Nelson corner to make it 2-0.
Whether it was the crowd or something else, there was a lot more zip about Mikel Arteta’s side, and Lacazette almost scored again when his first-time strike from a Nelson pass clipped the outside of the post.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles was next to have a go, dinking a left footed effort wide after an excellent run into the Vienna box, and just before the break we scored again. Arsenal worked it down the left, Lacazette sent Pepe through, he cut it back to Nelson who laid it off to Nketiah. The striker’s first attempt was save well by the keeper, but he reacted quickly to nod the ball home and make it 3-0.
The visitors made two changes at the break, and got a goal back after just two minutes. Alex Runarsson’s first save saw the ball go back into danger, Kolasinac made two very good blocks, but the keeper was perhaps too easily beaten by Kitagawa from 12 yards out. 3-1.
Lacazette forced Streinbinger into a good save in the 58th minute, and the Rapid keeper denied both Maitland-Niles and Pepe inside a few seconds as the Gunners pressed for another goal.
Pepe then drove into the box and cut inside when it was open for him to take a shot on his favoured left foot, much to Mikel Arteta’s displeasure, before the manager made a triple change. Lacazette, Elneny and Nelson made way for Emile Smith Rowe, Dani Ceballos and Willian in the 64th minute.
Pepe almost created one for Nketiah, but the striker couldn’t quite stretch enough to get the touch he needed for a tap-in, but Maitland-Niles delivery to Smith Rowe saw the substitute tap home from close range to make it 4-1. “Welcome back bro!”, said AMN in the celebration huddle.
Calum Chambers was introduced in the 69th minute, his first appearance since his ACL injury in January, replacing Mustafi. Willian saw an effort saved, Ceballos tested the keeper with a free kick from 25 yards, and Folarin Balogun came on to replace Nketiah in the 81st minute.
Chambers had a header cleared off the line, Balogun and AMN combined well in the box before the defender cleared, and a succession of corners kept pressure on the visitors in the closing stages. Willian shot wide in the 90th minute, and Balogun almost made it 5 after good movement saw him get on the end of a Ceballos delivery.
In the end, a good win, some nice goals, and so great to see fans back inside the ground to appreciate it.