Arsenal enjoyed a triumphant return to the Champions League with a 4-0 thrashing of outclassed PSV Eindhoven in Group B as their impressive start to the season continued last night.
Six years after their last appearance among Europe’s elite, goals by Bukayo Saka, Leandro Trossard and Gabriel Jesus before halftime paved the way for an easy victory, with captain Martin Odegaard also on target in the second half.
Saka, one of several Arsenal players making their debuts in the competition, struck from close range after eight minutes and Trossard’s low shot made it 2-0 12 minutes later before Jesus hammered Arsenal’s third to effectively wrap up the points.
Arsenal, who have taken 13 points from their opening five Premier League games, travel to Lens next week while PSV must try to repair some of the damage at home to Sevilla.
The last time Arsenal played in the Champions League they suffered a chastening 10-2 aggregate drubbing at the hands of Bayern Munich, since when their perennial place amongst the Premier League’s top-four became a fading memory.
Runners-up spot to Manchester City last season sent them back to the top table and Dutch side PSV proved the perfect opponents on a rain-drenched night in north London.
“It was a beautiful night,” Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta told reporters. “In both boxes today we were exceptional and that was the difference.
“I was really excited before the game. Our journey started last year and we earned the right to be in this competition.”
Arsenal have had to grind out wins this season in the Premier League with teams defending deep to negate their attacking strengths.
But Dutch league leaders PSV were wide open, allowing Arsenal to do more or less what they pleased.
The visitors did test David Raya, again preferred to England keeper Aaron Ramsdale, in the opening minute when Noa Lang forced the Spaniard into a comfortable save.
After that it was one-way traffic.
Arsenal’s opener arrived as Saka linked with Odegaard and when the Norwegian’s shot was only parried by Walter Benitez, Saka was alert enough to guide home from close range.
PSV were architects of their own downfall for Arsenal’s second, giving the ball away during a foray forward, and a lightning counter-attack ended with Saka squaring for Trossard to fizz a low shot across the wet turf and into the corner.
Trossard then turned provider to set up Jesus who took a silky touch before smashing a shot into the net.
With a north London derby against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta had the luxury of making substitutions throughout the second half with Saka, Jesus and Declan Rice all getting an early breather.
But Arsenal were still far too slick for their opponents and captain Odegaard drilled in a clinical fourth after 70 minutes to complete a thoroughly satisfying night.
Meanwhile, Bayern Munich struck twice in four minutes in the first half to set them on their way to a 4-3 victory over an embattled Manchester United and make a winning start in Group A.
Bayern, unbeaten in their last 28 Champions League group stage home matches, looked in control despite some sloppy defending at times, and came out on top in a seven-goal bonanza with three of them coming in the final few minutes.
Goals from Leroy Sane and Serge Gnabry in the 28th and 32nd minutes put the hosts in the driving seat with injury-hit United, who have now lost their last three matches, scoring in the 49th through Rasmus Hojlund’s deflected effort.
A Harry Kane penalty, awarded for a handball by Christian Eriksen, restored Bayern’s two-goal cushion four minutes later before the game ended with a flurry of late goals with United’s Casemiro scoring either side of a Mathys Tel stoppage time effort.
Bayern also hit the woodwork through Sane and Thomas Mueller.
United, who lost 3-1 to both Brighton & Hove Albion and Arsenal in their previous two games, have conceded three goals or more in three consecutive matches for the first time since December 1978.
Yet it had started well for them with Eriksen’s fourth minute shot parried by Bayern’s Sven Ulreich.
It was a howler by United’s Andre Onana that put the hosts in front, with the keeper letting Sane’s tame shot slip past him and into the net.
With assistant coach Zsolt Loew on the bench, Bayern scored again with Jamal Musiala setting up Gnabry after a fine solo run.
Hojlund’s shot four minutes after the restart gave them some hope but Bayern quickly extinguished it in the 53rd with Kane’s penalty.
In a frantic finale Casemiro first hooked the ball in from close range after stumbling to the floor and then headed their third goal in stoppage time, seconds after Bayern substitute Tel had powered the ball into the roof of the net.
In the other Group A game Galatasaray battled back with two goals in the final four minutes to snatch a 2-2 draw at home against 10-man Copenhagen.
Diogo Goncalves and Mohamed Elyounoussi put the Danes 2-0 up before a dramatic finish saw Sacha Boey cut the deficit in the 86th and substitute Tete’s 88th-minute volley earn a point.
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