First restart win lifts Gunners gloom
Goals from Eddie Nketiah and Joe Willock seal 2-0 win over Southampton to hand Mikel Arteta his first away victory as Gunners' boss
25 June, 2020 — By Steve Barnett
SOUTHAMPTON 0 (Stephens sent off 85)
ARSENAL 2 (Nketiah 20, Willock 86)
A GOALKEEPING howler helped Arsenal net their first Premier League restart win last night (Thursday) with a 2-0 victory at Southampton.
The Gunners are not in good enough form to turn down gifts, so when Alex McCarthy presented them with one 20 minutes into the match at St Mary’s, Eddie Nketiah gratefully accepted.
The Saints shot-stopper hit what should have been a routine clearance straight at Nketiah – the ball deflecting towards the unguarded goal to leave the young forward with a simple finish.
“I could smell the uncertainty from the goalkeeper,” said Nketiah after pressurising McCarthy into his mistake. “We work a lot on our high press and for me personally, I always try to give my all. I have done it hundreds of times so I’m glad one of them has led to a goal.”
The points were finally made safe five minutes from time after Jack Stephens saw red for the hosts after bringing down Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as he was going through on goal.
Substitute Alexandre Lacazette fired the resulting free-kick into the wall, but the ball dropped back at the French forward’s feet for a second bite of the cherry.
McCarthy could only parry Lacazette’s thumping drive, allowing Joe Willock to race in and smash home a second from close range.
Nketiah added: “We have been unfortunate and we knew we had to roll our sleeves up and fight for the win.
“Southampton came out really strong in the second half and we worked hard in the heat to keep going. It was a very important three points.”
The Gunners could have made life easier for themselves if they had made more of the space afforded to them on the counter-attack.
Aubameyang should have opened the scoring early on when he raced on to a long punt downfield by Kieran Tierney.
The Gunners captain set his sights on the top far corner, but as the watching fans started their celebrations via Zoom his rasping shot cannoned back off the underside of the bar.
Aubameyang looked lively throughout, and early in the second half went darting into the box again. However, this time, instead of going for goal he tried to square the ball to Nketiah and the pass was cut out by Jan Bednarek who sent the ball trickling millimetres wide of his own goal.
In the end, Arsenal did more than enough to earn Mikel Arteta his first away win since taking charge in December.
The result is the perfect fillip ahead of their FA Cup quarter-final away to Sheffield United on Sunday afternoon, which kicks off at 1pm.
Southampton: McCarthy, Valery (Walker-Peters, 45), Stephens, Bednarek, Bertrand, Armstrong, Ward-Prowse, Hojbjerg (Vestergaard 90+1), Obafemi (Long, 45), Redmond, Ings (Romeu 90+1)
Substitutes not used: Gunn, Adams, Smallbone, Vokins, Tella
Arsenal: Martinez, Bellerin, Mustafi, Holding, Tierney (Kolasinac, 70), Pepe (Willock, 64), Ceballos (Maitland-Niles, 80), Xhaka, Saka, Nketiah (Lacazette, 80), Aubameyang
Substitutes not used: Macey, Sokratis, Ozil, Nelson, Smith