After 270 days English top-flight football witnessed fans inside a stadium when Arsenal faced Rapid Vienna in a Europa League match on Thursday. The Gunners did not disappoint their 2000 odd fans as they registered a routine 4-1 win at the Emirates Stadium.
The fans, who were dispersed well to maintain physical distancing at the 60,000-capacity stadium, were in high spirits despite Arsenal’s poor run of form in recent times.
“I’m delighted to have fans back they make a huge difference,” said Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta. “We had 2,000 but they were loud and they were supportive to the team so thanks to them for coming and making the effort.
Alexandre Lacazette gave the fans what they had longed to see from March as he scored the opener within 10 minutes of the match. Pablo Mari extended the lead for the home team with his first goal since March.
The fans were up for a treat in the first half with Eddie Nketiah scoring the third right before the break. Substitute Emily Smith Rowe also put his name on the scoresheet.
Meanwhile, Kohya Kitagawa scored a consolation goal and was treated with a round of boos from the Arsenal fans.
Ahead of the kick-off the fans paid tribute to the health workers and covid warriors battling the pandemic on the front line. The fans held up a banner outside the ground reading: “Home at last, Thank you NHS”.
Arsenal’s last match with a crowd at the Emirates was back in March before everything came to a standstill for three months due to the pandemic.
Arsenal fans were deprived from seeing their club lift the FA Cup and Community Shileld as football was being played behind closed doors in England till Thursday. However, there’ll be still some grounds in England where fans will not be allowed, informed Premier League earlier this week.
“It’s been a long nine months since the last game,” said Javed Singh. “I’m excited, it’s a bit of a dead rubber game but good to be back in the stadium. Just great to see a game in person.”
In another match, Tottenham Hotspur were made to share points with LASK at the Linzer Stadium in Linz, Austria. In a thrilling encounter Premier League toppers were leading 2-1 till 84th minute before Eggestein equalised for the hosts.
A third goal in the 86th minute from Delle Ali almost took the Spurs on the verge of a great win. However, LASK equalised innthe the stoppage time to salvage a point for themselves.