Arsenal secure nervy opening-day win over Nottingham Forest

Arsenal survived a nail-biting final 10 minutes to beat Nottingham Forest 2-1 at the Emirates on the opening weekend of the Premier League season.

Following a 30-minute delay to kickoff due to an issue with the ticketing system – leading to massive queues outside the stadium – first-half goals from Eddie Nketiah and Bukayo Saka proved telling, although Forest threw the kitchen sink at the hosts’ backline after pulling one back from Taiwo Awoniyi eight minutes before the end.

Despite last weekend’s Community Shield success over Manchester City, Mikel Arteta still chopped and changed his starting XI, dropping Gabriel Magalhaes and peculiarly selecting Nketiah to lead the line.

While the Gunners dominated possession early on as expected, their new-look backline was carved open in the 11th minute as Brennan Johnson found himself one-on-one with Aaron Ramsdale, but the Welshman’s effort was high, wide and not very handsome.

Steve Cooper‘s side were frustrating Arsenal’s attackers effectively, but the visitors’ resistance was broken in the 26th minute, as Gabriel Martinelli produced an exquisite roulette to find Nketiah inside the box, and the Englishman cut inside before firing a low effort beyond the returning Matt Turner.

Nketiah was aided by a slight deflection, which helped the ball on its way over Turner, but there was nothing fortunate about the Gunners’ second on the 32-minute mark, as Saka drove infield from the right and curled an unstoppable effort into the top corner

Arsenal’s two-goal lead was certainly merited, and new boy Declan Rice wanted a slice of the action in the 44th minute, but Turner did well to keep out the Englishman’s low drive.

There was some concern for Arteta when another summer signing – Jurrien Timber – came off worse from a challenge with Johnson towards the end of the half, but the Dutchman was sent out for the second half before going down off the ball almost immediately.

Ostensibly suffering a calf or knee injury, Timber trudged off the field to be replaced by Takehiro Tomiyasu, who had Arsenal’s next shot on goal in the 52nd minute, but his tame effort from 20 yards was never troubling Turner.

Forest were not seriously troubled by their hosts in the period that followed, but Turner was alert to palm another long-range Rice attempt onto the post in the 76th minute, just before Willy Boly met a Johnson corner but headed the ball straight into the grateful hands of Ramsdale.

Arsenal’s failure to add to their lead was punished in the 82nd minute, as Forest launched a rapid counter-attack from an Arsenal corner through Awoniyi and Anthony Elanga, who burst forward on the left-hand side and squared for the Nigerian to prod home from close range

It was anybody’s game during a chaotic final 15 minutes, but Arsenal defended valiantly and clung on for an opening-day three points, but it was hardly a vintage display from last year’s runners-up.

Arsenal now have a nine-day recuperation period before they host Crystal Palace on August 21, while Forest welcome newly-promoted Sheffield United to the City Ground next Friday

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