Soccer

Arsenal return to Champions League with a bang

Arsenal had a night to remember (Nigel French/PA)
Arsenal had a night to remember (Nigel French/PA) Arsenal had a night to remember (Nigel French/PA)

Arsenal enjoyed a fine return to the Champions League as they cruised past PSV Eindhoven at the Emirates Stadium.

Six years of absence were soon brushed to one side – as were PSV – as a scintillating attacking display saw Bukayo Saka, Leandro Trossard, Gabriel Jesus and Martin Odegaard score in a dominant 4-0 win.

The club’s hiatus from the top table of European football was so long someone felt it necessary to print the words to the Champions League anthem in the matchday programme and Arsenal’s players were certainly singing from the same hymn sheet.

Bukayo Saka
Bukayo Saka Bukayo Saka got Arsenal off to a flying start (Nigel French/PA)

Mohamed Elneny, back on the bench for the first time since a serious knee injury in January, was the only member of the current crop to have experienced Champions League football in an Arsenal shirt.

It did not take any of the tournament debutants long to make their mark on a new stage, however, as Saka struck inside eight minutes before Trossard doubled the lead, Jesus added a third before the break and Odegaard capped off a fine evening.

David Raya retained his place in the Arsenal goal having replaced Aaron Ramsdale for Sunday’s Premier League win at Everton.

Kai Havertz and Jesus came in for Fabio Vieira and Eddie Nketiah while Trossard deputised for the injured Gabriel Martinelli.

Gabriel Jesus
Gabriel Jesus Gabriel Jesus got in on the act (Nigel French/PA)

Saka set the tone for the evening, the England winger finishing after PSV goalkeeper Walter Benitez pushed an Odegaard shot into his path.

Jesus should have doubled the lead moments later but could not make contact on Ben White’s low cross but the second came soon after as the Brazil forward led a counter-attack and played in Saka, who crossed for Trossard to strike.

It was one-way traffic at the Emirates as Havertz fired over before Jesus forced Benitez into a good stop and then got on the scoresheet himself with a fine effort from a deep Trossard cross.

With Arsenal hosting north London neighbours Tottenham on Sunday, boss Mikel Arteta took advantage of the big lead to take off his key men as the second half progressed.

All three goalscorers, as well as Oleksandr Zinchenko, were replaced before the 70-minute mark with the Gunners in complete control of proceedings at a rain-soaked Emirates.

There was still time for more goals, Odegaard not to be outdone as he angled home a fine finish to further widen the gap.

Under Arsene Wenger, Arsenal progressed from the group stages of the Champions League for 17 successive seasons, but the last seven of those ended in defeat in the last 16.

Arteta’s team have started Group B in fine style but the Spaniard will be under no illusions that his side will face more challenging tests if they are to go deep into the competition and successfully juggle European football with a Premier League title bid.