LONDON: Danny Welbeck not only scored his first home goal but hit a hat-trick as Arsenal celebrated the 18th anniversary of Arsene Wenger’s arrival as manager by dismissing Galatasaray 4-1 in the Champions League.
Wenger is the longest-serving manager in English football but the greatest prize, the Champions League, still eludes him. The nearest he came was when Arsenal – with Jens Lehmann sent off – lost the 2006 final in Paris. Their prospects of even reaching the knockout stage this season depend partly on how they cope in the next two months with yet another injury crisis.
Arsenal face Chelsea on Sunday on a crucial Premier League match so early in the season and thus needed to take early command against the Turks despite the injury absences of nine players including hard-working midfielders Aaron Ramsey and Mikel Arteta while half-fit Jack Wilshere was on the subs’ bench.
Not that it mattered much. A spell of three goals in 19 minutes in the first half put Arsenal in command and on the way to a first victory in the group.
Alexis Sanchez and Welbeck were the key men. Arsenal first goal was created by the Chilean for the ex-Manchester United striker who then seized on sleepy defending to score a second. Sanchez scored the third himself to respond perfectly to some rough treatment from the Galatasaray defence.
The Turkish club risks disciplinary trouble from UEFA after their fans threw fireflares on to the pitch towards the end of the first half, prompting a brief hold-up in play.
Welbeck, who had not scored at home before this match, completed his first Arsenal hat-trick early in the second half. The 23-year-old, who scored 10 goals in all games last season for United, has already scored four in four games for the Gunners.
Galatasaray pulled one back from a penalty by Burak Yilmaz after he was tripped by Wojciech Szczesny. The goalkeeper was duly sent off in the Champions League for the second time in eight months. He had also been sent off last February against Bayern.
In the other Group D game substitute Adrian Ramos ensured Borussia Dortmund maintained a perfect start by sealing a 3-0 victory at Anderlecht. The Colombian’s late double cemented the lead given to the visitors by Ciro Immobile’s early opener and negated the efforts of home keeper Silvio Proto, who had kept the Germans at bay for more than an hour in between.
Madrid march on
In Group B Real Madrid avoided the embarrassment of losing to minnows Ludogorets after they fell a goal behind in only the sixth minute. After Marcelinho scored for Ludogorets, Cristiano Ronaldo responded to missing one penalty by scoring another, before Karim Benzema claimed a second for a 2-1 victory.
The other group game saw Liverpool become the latest big-name English scalp to be claimed by Basel who recorded a 1-0 win in Switzerland. The Swiss had beaten Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham in the last four years and added the five-time European champions to that list after Marco Streller converted a 53rd-minute corner.
In Group C Bayer Leverkusen turned in an impressive performance to open their account and leave Benfica staring an early exit in the face. Stefan Kiessling opened the scoring and Son Heung-min doubled the lead before Eduardo Salvio grabbed one back against the run of play.
But Hakan Calhanoglu swiftly netted another from the penalty spot to hand Leverkusen a 3-1 win and leave Benfica bottom of the group without a point.
Zenit St Petersburg drew 0-0 at home to Monaco in the other tie in Group C.
In Group A Arda Turan scored the only goal of the game as Atletico de Madrid defeated Juventus 1-0 while Markus Rosenberg’s brace gave Malmo a famous 2-0 victory over Olympiacos.