The Sunday Mail
Arsenal got their Premier League campaign underway with a 3-0 win at promoted Fulham, Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha scored his 50th league goal for the club to hand his London side a narrow win over Southampton.
Arsenal’s goals came from Alexandre Lacazette, new signing Gabriel and captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the opening game of the season.
Newcomers Gabriel and Willian enjoyed fine debuts for the Gunners, who made light work of their short trip across London to Craven Cottage and dominated against a toothless Fulham.
Lacazette scored the season’s opening goal in the eighth minute after poor defending by the home side, before 22-year-old Brazilian defender Gabriel, who joined Arsenal from Ligue 1 side Lille, made it 2-0 in the 49th minute with a close-range header.
Captain Aubameyang put the icing on the cake with a superb shot into the top corner in the 57th minute and missed a pair of gilt-edged chances in the closing stages to inflict even more damage on the home side.
Right-back Denis Odoi forced a save from Arsenal ’keeper Bernd Leno early on but that was as good as it got for Fulham, whose opening-day performance suggests that staying in the top-flight could be a tall order.
Lacazette was left with the simple task of poking the ball in from close range after a comedy of errors by the home side, who enjoyed a slice of good fortune when Willian hit the post with a 22nd-minute free kick.
Gabriel made it 2-0 with a thumping header after a corner swung in by Willian, who racked up his second assist of the day when he set up Aubameyang for the third in his first game for Arsenal after his summer move from Chelsea.
Willian’s delightful pass from midfield found Aubameyang on the left flank and the striker cut inside to curl a rasping shot from inside the penalty area past Marek Rodak, who was left clutching thin air.
The home ’keeper then did well to block a shot from point-blank range by Aubameyang, who had another effort cleared off the line by a defender in the dying minutes.
Even at 3-0 down, Fulham were barely able to break out of their own half with their midfield chasing shadows and a porous defence all at sea whenever Arsenal went forward.
Zaha’s goal was enough to secure Palace’s first opening win of a Premier League campaign.
The hosts went ahead against the run of play as Zaha, who had managed only one goal in his previous 21 games, met Andros Townsend’s pinpoint cross from the right with a side-footed volley past goalkeeper Alex McCarthy in the 13th minute.
“We finished last season on the wrong foot. We have been working in pre-season to make sure we start in a different manner. The performance and points were very important going forward,” Palace captain Scott Dann told the BBC.
Zaha, so often Palace’s talisman during previous seasons, but coming off a disappointing 2019-20 campaign in which he netted only four league goals, looked dangerous throughout the first half as Southampton left far too many gaps at the back.
Ralph Hasenhuettl’s side responded by increasing their intensity in attack and had two quick chances immediately after the restart, but both Nathan Redmond and Che Adams were unlucky not to get the ball past the impressive Vicente Guaita in goal.
Kyle Walker-Peters, who joined Southampton from Tottenham Hotspur in the close season, was then shown a straight red for a high challenge before referee Jon Moss changed it to a yellow following the intervention of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR).
Zaha thought he had doubled Palace’s tally late into the contest with a neat run and finish, only for the VAR to rule out his effort as he was offside in the build-up.
EPL Results and Fixtures
Arsenal 3-0 Fulham
Crystal Palace 1-0 Southampton
Liverpool 4-3 Leeds United
West Ham v Newcastle (Played late)
West Brom v Leicester 3pm
Tottenham v Everton 5.30pm
Sheffield United v Wolves 7pm
Brighton v Chelsea 9.15pm. — Reuters.