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Arsenal 2-1 Nottingham Forest: Bukayo Saka nets stunner but Gunners have to survive late scare in opening win

By Matt Verri
Saturday August 12, 2023

Arsenal survived a late scare to beat Nottingham Forest 2-1 and get their Premier League season off to a winning start.

Expectation is high in north London after last season’s title bid and a summer of strong recruitment, and for much of the afternoon it looked like being a cruise to three points. Eddie Nketiah opened the scoring after great work from Gabriel Martinelli before a wonderful strike from Bukayo Saka put Arsenal in complete control before the break.

Taiwo Awoniyi gave the visitors real hope of taking something from the match though when he finished off a Forest counter in the closing, before the Gunners just about came through some nervy moments to hang on for victory.

Gabriel’s run of 73 League starts in a row for Arsenal came to an end as he dropped to the bench, with Thomas Partey moved to right-back and Nketiah coming in to the lead the line. Matt Turner started for Forest, just two days after completing his move from the Gunners.

Kick-off was delayed in north London by 30 minutes due to ticketing issues, which left thousands stuck outside, but most were in their seats when Brennan Johnson should have opened the scoring. A Willy Boly header sent him through on goal, but the finish from Johnson was wild with only Aaron Ramsdale to beat.

It was Arsenal who took the lead though, Martinelli producing a brilliant piece of skill out wide to flick the ball inside to Nketiah, and he fired past Turner with the help of a slight deflection.

The Gunners doubled their advantage just after the hour mark in stunning style, as Saka picked the ball 25 yards out, cut inside onto his left foot and curled a glorious finish into the top corner.

What had been a serene start to the season for Arsenal took a hit just after the break when Timber, who picked up a knock just before half-time, pulled up on the ball and had to be helped off the pitch as he was replaced.

The hosts were unconvincing for much of the second-half, unable to get the third goal that would have killed the match off. Declan Rice very nearly provided it, but his low strike was turned onto the post by the fingertips of Turner.

Forest set up a grandstand finish with just under ten minutes remaining, and it came from an Arsenal corner. The visitors cleared it, Anthony Elana broke away down the left wing and he played the ball low into the box, where Awoniyi provided the finish at the near post. That ensured there were plenty of nerves around the Emirates, but the Gunners just about held firm.


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