Arsenal open Premier League campaign with win over Nottingham Forest despite nervy ending of game

August 12th, 2023 by Olasunkanmi Ibikunle

Bukayo Saka’s superb first-half strike helped Arsenal begin their Premier League campaign with a 2-1 win over Nottingham Forest on the opening weekend.

The 21-year-old England forward added to Eddie Nketiah’s 26th minute opener with a curling effort from outside the area that nestled itself into the top left corner of the Forest net, well past the reach of former Gunners keeper Matt Turner.

But last season’s Premier League runners-up had to survive a late charge by Forest after substitute Taiwo Awoniyi clawed a goal back in the 83rd minute.

The game had been delayed by 30 minutes because of an e-ticketing system issue that meant the majority of fans were still outside Emirates Stadium at the scheduled kick-off time of 12:30 BST.

Immediately play got underway, it was Nottingham Forest with the first clear-cut chance when Brennan Johnson was put through on goal against Aaron Ramsdale, but the Wales forward lofted his shot high and wide when the Arsenal goalkeeper rushed off his mark.

Forests’ chances for the remainder of the game were few and far between until Awoniyi helped the visitors roar to life and create a tense finish.

Arsenal’s big summer signings Declan Rice, Kai Havertz and Jurrien Timber all started again for Mikel Arteta, having made their competitive debuts in the Community Shield, but it was Gabriel Martinelli who looked the liveliest in the opening stages.

The Brazilian winger darted in and out of the Forest defence to create the goalscoring opportunity for Nketiah, who netted his first goal since January when his shot took the slightest of deflections off Joe Worrall to send Turner the wrong way.

Eight minutes later, Saka’s quality shone through when he received the ball on the edge of the penalty area, cut inside and fired home Arsenal’s second.

However, Arsenal’s afternoon was marred when Timber, signed from Ajax for £34m last month, limped off the pitch and was replaced by Takehiro Tomiyasu in the 50th minute with what appeared to be a calf injury.

Rice, a £100m signing from West Ham, was effective in the Arsenal midfield and came close on a couple of occasions to adding a third for the home side, but his best effort, a 20-yard strike, was pushed on to the post by Turner’s fingertip save.

The visitors started with their top scorer from last season, Awoniyi, on the bench with doubts over his recovery from an ankle injury, but apart from Johnson’s opening opportunity, chances were lacking and Forest had yet to have an attempt on target when the Nigeria striker was substituted on in the 71st minute.

But Awoniyi proved to be the spark Forest were missing, opening their account for the season when he fired home fellow substitute Anthony Elanga’s square pass across the face of Arsenal’s goal.

Despite the seven minutes of injury time added on, Cooper’s side failed to break down Arsenal’s possession to add a second with Morgan Gibbs-White coming closest, but shooting over while stretching.

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