LONDON (AP)Arsenal’s newcomers made an immediate impact as they opened the English Premier League by beating host Crystal Palace 2-0 on Friday.
Left back Oleksandr Zinchenko set up the opening goal in the first half while striker Gabriel Jesus created a number of chances and defender William Saliba put in a near-flawless performance in his first start for Arsenal.
The Gunners still had to endure a nervy second half before Bukayo Saka’s attempted cross was deflected into his own net by Palace defender Marc Guehi in the 85th.
Arsenal took the lead from a well-worked corner in the 20th, when Zinchenko met a long delivery into the area and headed back across goal toward Gabriel Martinelli, who nodded the ball in from close range.
Martinelli should have scored in the opening minutes after a rampaging run from Jesus, who dribbled his way into the box before the ball was deflected into the path of his fellow Brazilian, who scuffed his shot wide of the far post.
”The way we started the game, the way we played the first half an hour, I think was superb,” Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said. ”We should have scored another one or two, we missed some chances. But (if) you want to win here, you have to dig in.”
Zinchenko and Jesus both joined from Manchester City in the offseason while Saliba was signed in 2019 but spent the last three seasons on loan in his native France. The center back looked composed and confident in his league debut, making key interventions and blocks as Palace chased an equalizer.
”It’s a long time I waited for this moment,” Saliba said. ”I’m so glad to start with a clean sheet and a win.”
Arsenal also needed two good saves from goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale to maintain the lead.
Ramsdale first reacted quickly to palm away a close-range header from Odsonne Edouard in the 42nd minute, then got down low to block a shot from Eberechi Eze in the 54th.
”Aaron did incredibly well and he won the game for us,” Arteta said.
For Arsenal, it made for a much better start to the season than last year, when it also opened the campaign on a Friday night but fell to at promoted Brentford 2-0 and went on to lose the next two games as well.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports