Sun, Aug 13, 2017 - Page 11 News List

Premier League starts with thriller

LEICESTER BEATEN:Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said that from a neutral point, the opening encounter was the kind of game needed in the best competitions

AP, LONDON

Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud, right, reacts after scoring a goal against Leicester City in London on Friday.

Photo: Reuters

The Premier League made a thrilling return on Friday and Arsenal finally have something to celebrate on the opening weekend, while Watford and Liverpool played out a high-scoring draw yesterday.

It took the arrival of Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud from the bench in the second half to turn it around against Leicester City and give Arsenal only their second opening-day victory in eight seasons.

In the league’s first Friday night start, Arsene Wenger’s side were trailing 3-2 with seven minutes remaining, but Ramsey grabbed the equalizer and Giroud headed in an 85th-minute winner.

“We kept going and the spirit of the team was absolutely outstanding,” Wenger said. “If you look at that from a neutral point, for a first game it was a top-quality game.”

“You want the Premier League to be the best league in the world and I think it has to produce these kind of games to produce interest and quality,” Wenger said.

Even if the thrilling attacks were aided by such fragile defending.

Arsenal signing Alexandre Lacazette launched his Premier League career in style by heading in the opener after 94 seconds.

A predictable Arsenal implosion followed, with Shinji Okazaki and Jamie Vardy putting Leicester in front. Even after Danny Welbeck leveled on the stroke of halftime, Vardy restored Leicester’s lead after the break. Leicester was heading for something it did not even achieve in its astonishing 2015-2016 title-winning campaign: A win at Arsenal.

“We saw it though for 83 minutes,” Leicester manager Craig Shakespeare said, “and to concede two late set-plays in the manner we did is obviously hard to take.”

Instead, Wenger avoided a third consecutive season-opening loss at the start of his new two-year contract.

The Frenchman will be hoping it is a sign of changing fortunes after a season when he reached his nadir.

Although Arsenal signed off in May by lifting the FA Cup, a fifth-place finish ensured the north London club failed to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in two decades.

This was the perfect lift-off for Arsenal, particularly for Lacazette.

The first touch from the 60 million euro (US$71 million) signing was at kick-off.

His second was to meet Mohamed Elneny’s cross with a powerful header past goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

Lacazette savored the moment, opening his arms wide to take in the acclamation of his new home.

However, Arsenal’s defense were still on their summer break.

Just minutes after Lacazette scored, Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech was picking the ball out of his net.

Harry Maguire nodded Marc Albrighton’s cross back into the path of Okazaki, who headed home for Leicester to level the scores before Vardy’s goal.

“It was the first game of the season and it was a classic for everybody to watch,” Cech said.

Just not the type of display necessarily that delivers titles.

In yesterday’s early game, Watford defender Miguel Britos scrambled in a stoppage-time equalizer to grab a 3-3 draw against Liverpool in an absorbing encounter.

Britos stabbed home at the death after Liverpool had come from 1-0 and 2-1 down to lead 3-2 thanks to a three-minute blitz in the second half, when new signing Mohamed Salah made his presense felt.

Former Chelsea winger Salah, who joined Liverpool from AS Roma during the off-season, won a penalty converted by Roberto Firmino in the 54th minute and then bundled in the Brazilian’s lofted pass from close range.

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