Sanchez stars to get Gun­ners in groove af­ter crowd chaos

China Daily - - SPORTS -

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.

Tof­fees trounced

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.

KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH / AP

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.

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