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Alexis Sanchez gets used to life in Europa League by leading comeback against Koln

Kick-off delayed as 17,000 visiting fans head to the Emirates Stadium

15 September, 2017 — By Paul Cowling

UEFA Europa League
ARSENAL 3  (Kolasinac 49, Sanchez 67, Bellerín 81)
FC KOLN 1  (Cordoba 9) 
ALEXIS Sanchez made his first start, and scored his first goal, of the season as Arsenal came from behind to beat FC Koln last night (Thursday).After the match Arsene Wenger praised his Chilean talisman, who was almost sold to Manchester City on transfer deadline day.

“Sanchez came alive in the second half. He is still trying to get back to his best, but Sanchez is Sanchez,” said the Arsenal boss.

There was confusion, and potential for mayhem, ahead of the Gunners first foray into the Europa League when the kick off for their Group H opener was delayed by an hour due to crowd congestion and safety fears.

The German club had been followed to London by around 17,000 ticketless fans, who converged on the Emirates Stadium prior to kick off, eager to see Koln’s first European tie in 25 years.

“It was very clever how the Koln fans got so many tickets,” said a bemused Wenger, who admitted he was surprised that the game went ahead.  Did they get Arsenal memberships, or just go on the web? Certainly there were more people here then had tickets.  I don’t think the delay accounted for our slow start. And I could understand if the game wasn’t played. There was all kinds of speculation. Perhaps Uefa will make an enquiry to see what happened. ”

He added: “When I saw the images around the stadium, I thought they would not play the match.”On just nine minutes Wenger might have been wishing that the game had been postponed.

Columbian striker Jhon Cordoba spectacularly lobbed the ball into an empty net from 40 yards following a howler by David Ospina.

The Gunners’ keeper could only backtrack in vain as his misplaced clearance was smashed into the back of the net by his fellow countryman.

Arsenal’s response for the remainder of the first half was next to nothing, as the away defence stifled the attacking trio of Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud and Sanchez.

Wenger introduced Sead Kolasinac for Rob Holding after the break, and the giant Bosnian – already a cult hero – endeared himself to Gunners fans even more when he thumped home a stunning volley in the 49th minute.

“Kolasinac gave us a lot going forward. He allowed Sanchez to get more forward, too,” said Wenger as he praised his free summer signing.

On 67 minutes Sanchez started rebuilding his relationship with the Arsenal fans, some of which are still angry by his seeming desire to join Man City in the summer.

The Chilean star chased down a pass that was going out of play, cut inside and planted a curling shot in to the top corner of the visitors’ net.

Hector Bellerin made it 3-1 in the 82nd minute to seal an opening night win, sending the Arsenal supporters home happy, albeit at 11pm.

ARSENAL: Ospina; Holding (Kolasinac, 45′), Mertesacker, Monreal; Bellerin, Iwobi (Wilshere, 69′), Maitland-Niles; Walcott (Nelson, 82′), Giroud, Sanchez
Subs not used: Macey, Mustafi, Reine-Adelaide, Akpom

FC KOLN: Horn T; Klunter (Osako 76), Rausch, Heintz, Mere, Lehmann; Zoller (Risse 64), Hoger, Hector (Jogic 35), Bittencourt; Cordoba
Subs not used: Guirassy, Kessler, Horn J, Sorensen

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