LONDON (AP) — After Arsenal left fans standing in line for an extra 30 minutes to get into the stadium, Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka proved they were worth the wait.
Arsenal’s two star wingers lit up the opening Saturday of the Premier League season with an audacious assist and a curling long-range strike that helped the team start the campaign with a 2-1 win over Nottingham Forest.
Newcastle then sent the biggest statement of the day, with Alexander Isak scoring twice in a 5-1 dismantling of Aston Villa in the late game that showed Eddie Howe’s team could be a top-four contender again this season.
Jarrod Bowen provided another highlight with a strike similar to Saka’s to open the scoring for Bournemouth in a 1-1 draw with West Ham, while Brighton’s record signing Joao Pedro scored on his debut in a 4-1 win over newcomer Luton.
Everton, on the other hand, couldn’t produce any kind of breakthrough despite a slew of chances and paid the price when it conceded a second-half goal to lose 1-0 against visiting Fulham.
Crystal Palace beat Sheffield United 1-0 after also scoring in the second half of a game it largely dominated.
A day after defending champion Manchester City opened the season with a 3-0 win at promoted Burnley, Arsenal also needed to make a bright start to show it can once again be the main challenger to Pep Guardiola’s team.
The day got off to an embarrassing start, though, as Arsenal’s new digital ticketing system caused a 30-minute delay to the game when it collapsed and tens of thousands of angry fans were unable to get into the stadium in time for the scheduled kickoff.
Martinelli made most of them forget all about that mishap with his assist for the opening goal.
Taking on two defenders outside the area, the Brazilian produced a quick spin move followed by a backheel flick to Eddie Nketiah in the box, and the Arsenal striker carved out enough space for a shot that took a slight deflection before going past goalkeeper Matt Turner.
“It was a great bit of skill by Martinelli to get through,” Nketiah said.
Saka then produced an even better one just six minutes later.
Cutting in from the right, Saka launched a left-footed strike from outside the area that flew into the far corner past the outstretched Turner, the United States international who was making his Forest debut just days after joining the club from Arsenal.
“Definitely one of my better goals,” said Saka, who scored 14 in the Premier League last season. “It’s one of those where, when it leaves your foot, you sort have a good feeling.”
It looked set to be a routine win for Arsenal, until the visitors suddenly found themselves right back in the game. Anthony Elanga launched a quick counter after an Arsenal corner in the 83rd minute and ran the length of the field before squaring to fellow substitute Taiwo Awoniyi, who slotted in from close range.
That created a nervy finish, although Forest couldn’t test Arsenal goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale again.
Newcastle is entering a season with Champions League soccer for the first time since 2002-03, and judging by Saturday’s performance it could well be back in the Premier League’s top four this time around.
Isak netted one goal in each half after new signing Sandro Tonali had opened the scoring, with Callum Wilson and Harvey Barnes adding late goals. The scoreline could have been even bigger if not for a number of saves by Villa goalkeeper Emi Martinez.
Villa’s day was made even worse by a serious injury to defender Tyrone Mings, who had to be carried off on a stretcher in the 31st. It’s yet another blow for Unai Emery’s team after midfielder Emiliano Buendia suffered a serious knee injury this week.
Villa’s marquee summer signing Moussa Diaby had equalized for the visitors in the 11th.
NEW FACES, SAME BRIGHTON
Brighton was one of the big surprises last season when it finished sixth to qualify for Europe for the first time. Despite losing more key players this offseason, it picked up where it left off against Luton — thanks in part to two newcomers.
Pedro became the club’s record signing when he joined from Watford and netted his first goal for the club with a penalty in the 71st, after Solly March had given the hosts the lead in the first half.
Carlton Morris then converted a penalty for Luton’s first Premier League goal, but Simon Adingra — another new signing — capitalized on a big error from Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu to make it 3-1 before fellow substitute Evan Ferguson added the fourth in injury time.
EVERTON STRUGGLES UP FRONT
Judging by its opening game, Everton still hasn’t found a solution to its scoring problems.
Sean Dyche’s team produced 19 shots but couldn’t find a way past Bernd Leno in the Fulham goal, and instead conceded a 73rd-minute goal by Bobby De Cordova-Reid.
At Bournemouth, Dominic Solanke scored a late goal to help the hosts salvage a 1-1 draw when he collected a loose ball in the box, rounded goalkeeper Alphonse Areola, and slotted it into the net in the 82nd minute at Vitality Stadium. Bowen had put the Hammers ahead with a left-footed curler from outside the area in the 51st.
At the age of 76, Crystal Palace coach Roy Hodgson began his 47th year in management with a win thanks to Odsonne Edouard’s goal early in the second half.