Arsenal came from a goal down as they ran out 3-1 victors against FC Koln to make a winning start in the Europa League.
Arsenal 3 FC Koln 1
Cordoba fires visitors in front
Kolasinac strike restores parity
Sanchez gives hosts the lead
Bellerin completes comeback
Trouble outside the ground caused the Group H opener at the Emirates STadium to be delayed by an hour, and Koln got off to a flying start when Jhon Cordoba broke the deadlock with a well-taken long-range strike.
Arsene Wenger’s side slowly grew into the game but failed to find a response before half-time. But they turned the tide in the second half with two exquisite goals from Sead Kolasinac and Alexis Sanchez, before Hector Bellerin sealed the comeback win in the closing stages.
The Bundesliga’s basement club made an encouraging start once the match finally got underway and they harried the Gunners in the opening stages.
The pressure would tell after just 10 minutes when David Ospina made a hash of his clearance following a long ball forward, and Cordoba proceeded to chip the out-of-position keeper with a shot on the turn from all of 35 yards out.
Things could have got worse after Leonardo Bittencourt was afforded space on the left three minutes later, but he failed to trouble Ospina with a long-range effort that cleared the crossbar.
The hosts had their first sniff at goal on the quarter-hour mark from a corner that found Nacho Monreal, but his glancing header was comfortably gathered by Timo Horn.
They threatened again five minutes later as Bellerin’s cross from the right was met by Olivier Giroud, whose header lacked the power to beat Horn.
Theo Walcott was presented with an opportunity midway through the first half when Alex Iwobi played him in on the right, but the forward scuffed his shot wide of the left post.
? Alexis Sánchez curls the ball into the corner from the edge of the box to put Arsenal in front. ⚽️
— UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) September 14, 2017
The north London giants were in the ascendancy as the first half wound down, with Mohamed Elneny rifling a shot wide of the target from 20 yards out, before Giroud directed a header wide of the right post from six yards out after rising to meet Sanchez’s cross from the left.
Arsenal hit back early in the second half as substitute Kolasinac made an instant impact with a blistering strike from an angle on the left that flew past Horn.
Iwobi nearly put them ahead moments later as he connected with Sanchez’s cross 18 yards out, but the young winger’s volley just cleared the goal.
The visitors were hanging on, although they had a rare chance on 61 minutes when substitute Milo Jojic found space for a shot from 25 yards out that was easily claimed by Ospina.
But the Gunners threatened again soon after as Ashley Maitland-Niles played a neat one-two with Giroud to break into the area, but Horn was quickly out to save at his feet.
There was nothing the German keeper could do to prevent his team from going behind on 67 minutes though, as Sanchez showed why Manchester City were so interested in signing him recently.
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) September 14, 2017
The Chilean chased a stray ball down the left touchline and advanced on goal before cutting inside and whipping an unstoppable shot into the right corner of the net from 18 yards out.
Koln went close to finding a quick response when Cordoba showed his pace and strength to break down the right flank and surge into the area before drawing a sharp save out of Ospina at his near post.
Sanchez looked to repeat his earlier feat after latching onto Jack Wilshere’s through-ball on the left, but the forward skewed his effort wide of the far post on 77 minutes.
Ospina was called into action two minutes later as Jojic was teed up 22 yards out, but his strike was at a comfortable height for the Colombian keeper.
However, the game was put to bed with eight minutes remaining as Kolasinac raced down the left flank and crossed into the middle, where Wilshere’s dummy set up Walcott, whose shot was blocked by Horn and Bellerin reacted quickest to slide home on the rebound.