Sanchez stars to get Gunners in groove after crowd chaos
PARIS — Alexis Sanchez scored a stunning goal as Arsenal came from behind to beat Cologne 3-1 on Thursday in a Europa League opener that was delayed for an hour due to crowd trouble.
Kick-off in the Group H clash at Emirates Stadium was put back until 9:05 pm local time in the interests of “crowd safety” after problems caused by thousands of ticketless Cologne supporters arriving at the north London ground.
Police confirmed four arrests were made before kickoff while there were reports of scuffles inside the stadium.
However, when the match finally got underway, the travelling fans who did manage to make it in were treated to a stunning 40-yard strike by Jhon Cordoba which put Cologne ahead after Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina was caught out of his area.
The Gunners improved in the second half and substitute Sead Kolasinac volleyed in an equalizer before a brilliant Sanchez strike gave the host a 67th-minute lead.
The Chilean, who was linked with a Gunners exit during the transfer window, cut in from the left before curling a sublime effort into the far top corner, and the three points were secure when Hector Bellerin made it 3-1 late on after Theo Walcott’s effort had been saved by Timo Horn.
“The win, and coming back from losing, obviously gives you a boost. Now we’ll train hard in the coming days to be ready for the weekend,” Bellerin told BT Sport.
Arsene Wenger’s side, which faces Chelsea in the Premier League on Sunday, is next in European action in two weeks’ time in Belarus against BATE Borisov, which drew 1-1 at Red Star Belgrade.
Earlier, Everton’s groupstage campaign got off to a disastrous start as Ronald Koeman’s side was taken apart in Italy, losing 3-0 to Atalanta.
The Serie A club — back in Europe after a 26-year absence — was forced to entertain its English visitor in Reggio Emilia, a two-hour drive south of its base in Bergamo, because its stadium does not have a license for European games.
But that did not prove a hindrance to Gian Piero Gasperini’s side, which completely overran the Toffees, scoring all its goals in the first half courtesy of Andrea Masiello, Alejandro Gomez and Bryan Cristante.
Gomez’s stunning longrange curler was the pick of the bunch for Atalanta, which also saw Remo Freuler hit the bar early in the second period.
“A lot went wrong. In the first half they showed more aggression, more passion, and that’s really painful because it starts with that and then you need quality with the ball,” an angry Koeman told BT Sport.
“The commitment and passion they showed in the first half was much stronger than us.”
Everton’s next match in Group E is at home to Apollon Limassol, the Cypriot side which snatched a 1-1 draw with Lyon on Thursday.
Meanwhile, AC Milan underlined its status as one of the teams to beat in the competition by romping to a 5-1 victory at Austria Vienna in Group D, with Andre Silva grabbing a hat-trick.
Milan was three up inside 20 minutes in the Austrian capital after Hakan Calhanolgu scored the opener and Silva netted twice.
Portugal striker Silva made it 4-1 after the break before Spaniard Suso’s long-range effort completed the rout.
Hoffenheim, which lost to Liverpool in the Champions League playoffs but beat Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga last weekend, suffered a 2-1 defeat at home to Portuguese side Braga in Group C despite Sandro Wagner giving the Germans the lead.
Other winners on Thursday included Villarreal, which beat Astana, of Kazakhstan, 3-1 in Spain in Group A, and Real Sociedad, which crushed Norwegian side Rosenborg 4-0 in Group L.
In Group K, Mario Balotelli scored as Nice won 5-1 at Zulte-Waregem in Belgium while Lazio won 3-2 at Vitesse Arnhem of the Netherlands.
Hector Bellerin slides in to score Arsenal's third goal during its 3-1 Europa League Group H victory over Cologne at Emirates Stadium in London on Thursday.