Sports FOOTBALL Martinelli gives the Gunners a head start in the...

Martinelli gives the Gunners a head start in the first leg


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A new season and possibly a new Arsenal, although this is no reason to draw conclusions. Mikel Arteta’s players were certainly much better than they were on that night in April when they lost 3-0 here, sending their Champions League position plummeting. This time they started like a train and deservedly headbutted Gabriel Martinelli; they then went on the defensive, especially during a sometimes awkward second half, and Crystal Palace would feel they had asked enough questions to secure a draw. Any hope of that was dashed by a late own goal by Marc Gaia, but it was exciting at the start of the season and shows that Patrick Vieira’s team is once again well prepared to compete in the coming months.

Aiming for a beam of golden evening light, Arsenal began with a clarity that suggested a determination to show that things were different now. Gabriel Jesus’ fiery pre-season form since their arrival has been touted as reason to believe in their resurrection as a top four force; friendly matches are nothing like real ones, but in the fourth minute of a serious fight, he seized on a careless touch in defense, crashed into the box, and only Gei blocked him with a lunge. Although Martinelli clearly missed due to the lost ball, his blush did not spare the offside.

Jesus was signed as Arsenal’s No. 9 but swapped with the nominally left-wing Martinelli in the early stages. Palace were locked in and the next player was Oleksandr Zinchenko, who won the league with Jesus at Manchester City two and a half months ago. Zinchenko’s batted shot was deflected by Vicente Guaita after the ball crossed the 18-yard line. Arteta bet big on his two proven Etihad winners, and both started with a noticeable lead.

Crystal Palace 0-2 Arsenal: Premier League season kicks off – live!

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Palace finally showed some of it when Sheik Doukouré, their own flagship, busted Martin Odegaard in what appeared to be a calculated attempt to set his team on fire. Jordan Ayew did the same, but less legally, on Martinelli, and Granite Xhaka had to go through Wilfrid Zaha’s cut. The situation seemed to change a little, but then Martinell turned the season around.

It was certainly an improvement on his start in 2021/22 when he didn’t score for three months. At first it seemed that Bukayo Saka shot from a corner from the right, but in fact it was the standard of the highest skill: Zinchenko made a run without a trace to the far edge of the penalty area, and it was impossible to mistake the intention when he crouched. his neck to the ball, heading pointedly towards Martinelli to accurately time his jump and nod towards Guaita.

The palace goalkeeper could perhaps have reached the ball harder. His team mate, Aaron Ramsdale, looked like their best hope for a quick parity: he hesitated to clear the ball and saw Odsonne Edouard go down and the ball bounced, then hurriedly got out of yet another difficult situation he had imposed on himself.

But for most of the half, Arsenal weren’t bothered, despite Zaha’s longing to get to substitute right-back Ben White. When the winger, a longtime enemy of these opponents, came out on top, he found Saka coming back to save the day, much to Arteta’s approval.

Bukayo Saka is unintentionally crossed by Mark Gei with a header into his own net. Photograph: Paul Childs/Action Images/Reuters

Toward half-time, Arteta was concerned that Arsenal had conceded some of the initiative. Palace began to threaten the equalizer and would have received it if Ramsdale, in a routine similar to the one that led to the open, had not parried Edward’s six-yard header.

Ramsdale saved Arsenal again seven minutes into the break. White was pulled inside with no one following Eberechi Eze as he ran towards Zaha’s slide rule. Eze managed to score a shot, but could not find a corner, and Ramsdale, standing on his feet, was able to block. The palace had to be on terms.

Now there was spitting and pushing in this play, none of the defensive sidelines looked particularly solid when viewed. Palace cheered for a more direct approach, managing to particularly expose Zinchenko with their passes, but they were lucky when Jesus tracked down Gaea and gave Odegaard a lift to get a chance that had been missed. Jeffrey Schlupp saw the blocking of a shot in the penalty area, and when the minutes began to count down, the hosts remained alive.

Arsenal had to work hard, Ødegaard took the ball from Ayew on the edge of the box. William Saliba, flawless on his Premier League debut, then covered his right flank to deprive Zaha of a perfect tackle. At this point the balls were flying through Arsenal’s six meter penalty area, but then a similar situation paid off at the other end. Saka reached full flight, and his assertive delivery went off Geha’s head, settling all issues, at least for tonight.

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