Alexis Sanchez stunner steers Arsenal past Koln in delayed Europa League opener
Europa League Group H - Emirates Stadium - Arsenal 3 (Kolasinac 49, Sanchez 67, Bellerin 82) FC Koln 1 (Cordoba 9)
Alexis Sanchez’s sensational strike steered Arsenal to a 3-1 victory over Koln in their delayed Europa League opener at a charged Emirates stadium.
The game finally got underway at 9.05pm, and it took just nine minutes for Koln to take the lead as Jhon Cordoba lobbed David Ospina from 45 yards out.
After the break, Arsenal equalised through substitute Sead Kolasinac, before Sanchez stepped up with a brilliant curled effort in the 67th minute – Hector Bellerin put the game beyond Koln with 10 minutes to go.
It's time to ditch three at the back for the Gunners. In the first-half Arsenal were flat and uninspiring, in the second there was far more zip about their play. Was that all down to the introduction of Kolasinac? Probably not. His arrival did allow Arsene Wenger to move to a 4-2-3-1 formation though and Arsenal looked instantly better. Copying Chelsea and Spurs hasn't worked out despite the FA Cup success last season and Wenger has to realise that Arsenal's best formation is the 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3. They don't have the defensive ability or discipline to pull it off. They do however have a plethora of attacking players they should utilise.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Sead Kolasinac (Arsenal): Whilst Kolasinac didn't totally change the game by himself he did have a greater impact than any other player. His drive and determination down the left, coupled with his thunderous finish for the equaliser, seemed to galvanise his team-mates. Bellerin and Mohamed Elneny raised their game and he even seemed to bring the best out of Sanchez. It's early days but Kolasinac is already cementing his position as one of the first names on the team-sheet.
Arsenal's Sead Kolasinac celebrates scoring their first goal with Hector BellerinReuters
9' - GOAL! ARSENAL 0-1 KOLN (CORDOBA) Oh my word what a finish that is. Ospina comes out of his goal to clear a ball over the top. The ball is loose and Cordoba turns and smacks it over the goalkeeper and into the net. That is magical and this place is bouncing now!
49' - GOAL! ARSENAL 1-1 KOLN (KOLASINAC) And the substitute has levelled things! Elneny chips it over to Walcott but his touch is poor and he goes wide. His cross is then blocked but it falls to Kolasinac and he smashes the ball into the net on the volley.
64' - GREAT SAVE! Maitland-Niles goes on a mazy run beating a number of players. But he tries to take it round Horn and the Koln keeper does excellently to smother it.
67' - GOAL! ARSENAL 2-1 KOLN (SANCHEZ) Well there's not a lot you can say about that. Sanchez chases down an over-hit pass from Iwobi. He jinks past two men and then curls it into the far corner. Simply brilliant.
Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal) Getty Images
82' - GOAL! ARSENAL 3-1 KOLN (BELLERIN) And that is that you would imagine. Kolasinac cuts the ball back and Wilshere dummies it to Walcott. His shot is blocked but Bellerin is on hand to tap home.
Arsene Wenger has now won against 57 different clubs during his tenure as Arsenal manager (from 64 different teams faced).
Sead Kolasinac scored the 200th European Cup goal at home for Arsenal under Arsene Wenger.
Arsenal have won their opening game of a European club competition for the first time in 4 years.
All 5 of Hector Bellerin's Arsenal goals have been scored at home.
Alexis Sanchez has scored more goals (10) than any other Arsenal player in European competition since joining in 2014.