Arsenal starts its EPL season with 1-0 win at Newcastle
NEWCASTLE, England (AP) — Arsenal’s club-record signing Nicolas Pépé watched as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored to give his team a 1-0 win at Newcastle in their Premier League opening game on Sunday.
Aubameyang, who had been threatening intermittently in a game of few chances, finally broke the deadlock in the 58th minute when he stopped Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ cross with his first touch and dinked it past Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka with his next.
Substitute Pépé, who joined from French side Lille for 72 million pounds ($87 million) on Aug. 1, was given a warm welcome from Arsenal fans when he made his debut in the 71st.
“Physically he needs to get his best fitness to be ready to play 100% for 90 minutes. I think that today 20 minutes is good for him,” Arsenal coach Unai Emery said.
Spain midfielder Dani Ceballos came on in the 64th to make his Arsenal debut.
Newcastle made the better start in Steve Bruce’s first Premier League game in charge of his hometown club, albeit without creating a glut of goal chances. Club record signing Joelinton went close with a header in the 17th minute of his debut. Paraguay forward Miguel Almirón was booked for a dive shortly afterward, before Jonjo Shelvey had two efforts blocked and Joelinton another shot saved.
At the other end, Aubameyang, twice flagged offside already, finally stayed on to take Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s through ball and draw a smart save.
Aubameyang was denied early in the second half after a fine ball forward from Granit Xhaka, but there was little the goalkeeper could do to stop the Gabon forward grabbing the winner.
“Today we struggled but we deserved it,” Emery said. “I am happy but we calm down to train tomorrow.”
There was a buzz of excitement around St. James’ Park when Allan Saint-Maximin came on in the 67th for his Newcastle debut. The French forward, given the No. 10, immediately whipped in a dangerous cross, deflected out for a corner.
Jetro Willems also came on for his Newcastle debut, while Brazilian defender Gabriel Martinelli came on late for the visitors.
Arsenal midfielders Mesut Özil and Sead Kolasinac, who were targeted by armed thieves in north London last month, did not feature after the club said Friday there were “further security incidents.”
Emery said he didn’t yet know if the pair would be available for Arsenal’s next game at home to Burnley on Saturday.