LONDON: Antony scored on his dream debut for Manchester United as the Brazilian’s clinical strike and Marcus Rashford’s double inspired a 3-1 win that ended Arsenal’s perfect start to the Premier League season on Sunday.
Antony was making his first appearance after signing from United manager Erik ten Hag’s former club Ajax in an 82 million ($94 million) deal on Thursday.
Full of flicks, tricks and purposeful movement, the 22-year-old forward took just 35 minutes to get on the scoresheet in a dazzling introduction to his new fans at Old Trafford.
Arsenal hit back to equalise through Bukayo Saka, but Rashford blew the leaders away with two goals in the space of nine second-half minutes after Antony was replaced by Cristiano Ronaldo.
Thanks to Antony and Rashford, United were able to celebrate a fourth successive victory that lifted them to fifth place.
Opening his reign with consecutive losses against Brighton and Brentford was a humbling experience for Ten Hag.
But since then, the Dutch coach has started to put his imprint on a United side that look far more organised than the shambolic unit that finished sixth in the Premier League last season.
Arsenal’s first defeat this term after five successive wins was cruel on Mikel Arteta’s men, who contributed plenty to an engrossing encounter but paid the price for some naive defending.
Arsenal thought they had snatched the lead in the 12th minute as Gabriel Martinelli raced away from Diogo Dalot to clip a fine finish over David de Gea.
But VAR intervened to ask Paul Tierney to check for a foul in the build-up and the referee ruled Martin Odegaard pushed Christian Eriksen to steal possession.
Antony put United ahead in the 35th minute when Rashford’s deft pass reached the forward, who took advantage of Arsenal’s sloppy marking to sweep a composed finish into the far corner from eight yards.
Antony kissed his badge and posed for the television cameras in a flamboyant celebration that sent Old Trafford into raptures, earning a ticking off from Tierney for sticking the ball up his shirt in front of the Arsenal fans.
Confidence clearly was not a problem for Antony and he even tried an audacious lob that kept Arsenal keeper Aaron Ramsdale on his toes.
Antony departed to a standing ovation after 58 minutes to be replaced by Ronaldo.
Saka silenced Old Trafford two minutes later as Arsenal grabbed a deserved equaliser.
Odegaard’s pass unhinged the United defence and when Dalot’s tackle on Gabriel Jesus diverted the ball to Saka, the England winger slotted home with ease.
But United caught Arsenal with a brilliant counter in the 66th minute.
Playing through the Arsenal press, Eriksen found Bruno Fernandes and his superb pass sent Rashford galloping clear to fire past Ramsdale.
United wrapped up the points with a replica of their second goal as Arsenal once again left themselves open at the back and this time Eriksen fed Rashford to slot home.
In Sunday’s early game, Brighton extended their superb start to the season with a 5-2 victory that left bottom of the table Leicester in turmoil.
Graham Potter’s fourth-placed side made it four wins from their first six games thanks to a second-half surge at the Amex Stadium.
Kelechi Iheanacho put Leicester ahead in the first minute, but a Luke Thomas own goal and Moises Caicedo’s strike gave Brighton the advantage.
Patson Daka equalised for Leicester, but the struggling visitors collapsed after half-time as Leandro Trossard put Brighton in front before Alexis Mac Allister’s double sealed the rout.
Leicester have taken just one point from their first six games, losing five in a row to leave boss Brendan Rodgers under severe pressure.
CITY HELD BY GERRARD’S VILLA
Champions Manchester City were held to a 1-1 draw at Aston Villa in the Premier League on Saturday after Erling Haaland grabbed his 10th goal in six games.
Jamaican Leon Bailey fired in a fine equaliser for Villa in the 74th minute after excellent work from Jacob Ramsey who provided a crisp, low cross which the winger curled into the top corner with a first-time left-foot finish.
Haaland had put Pep Guardiola’s side in front, five minutes into the second half, after connecting with an excellent deep cross from the right flank by Kevin De Bruyne.
The Norwegian, who had struck hat-tricks in the last two games, pulled away behind the back post and leapt to steer the ball home with a precise volley.
De Bruyne then hit the bar with a dipping free kick but Villa defended well against a wave of City attacks before Bailey struck.
Gerrard, who has admitted to feeling under pressure due to Villa’s poor start to the season, threw on Philippe Coutinho and the Brazilian had the ball in the net only to see the flag raised for offside.
No VAR review was possible for that effort, but replays suggested Coutinho may have been in an onside position and Gerrard said it had been a “legitimate goal”.
The result leaves City in second place on 14 points, one behind leaders Arsenal who face Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Published in Dawn, September 5th, 2022