By Chris Harris
We got off to a flying start in the Premier League with a classy performance and three points at Craven Cottage.
Alex Lacazette, debutant Gabriel and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were on target while the outstanding Willian claimed two assists on his first appearance for us.
Fulham were bright in the opening moments and a misjudgement from Gabriel almost let in Aboubakar Kamara. Bernd Leno did well to claw the ball off his toes.
From then on, the home side could not live with our pace, movement and quality.
The first goal was a scrappy one. Mohamed Elneny found Aubameyang and his cutback was fired goalwards by Granit Xhaka. Tim Ream failed to clear, Willian reacted first to force a save from Marek Rodak and Lacazette tucked away the rebound.
Willian struck a free-kick against the base of a post with Rodak beaten, and Aubameyang almost scored from a trademark burst in behind the defence in the left-hand channel.
Gabriel grew in stature as the game unfolded and he marked his debut with a downward header to convert Willian’s corner. That effectively put the match to bed very early in the second half.
After that it was a matter of how many we would score, and Aubameyang got the third and final goal thanks to a delightful crossfield pass from Willian and one of the captain’s sumptuous finishes into the far corner.
There will be tougher tests ahead, but this was a hugely-encouraging start to the new campaign.
HOW IT HAPPENED
WHAT IT MEANS
Mikel Arteta handed debuts to Willian and Gabriel, and recalled Bernd Leno in goal.
Mohamed Elneny kept his place from the Community Shield win over Liverpool, and returning loanee Dani Ceballos was on the bench.
Lacazette is the first player to score the very first goal of two Premier League seasons (2017/18 and 2020/21)
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is the first player to score on matchday one in consecutive Premier League seasons for us since Robert Pires in 2003/04 and 2004/05
Gabriel is the 10th player to score on his Premier League debut for us, and the first to do so in an away match since Thomas Vermaelen in August 2009 against Everton
Willian is the first player to assist two goals on his Premier League debut for us since Ray Parlour in August 1992 against Liverpool
Our first home game of the Premier League season is against West Ham United next Saturday.
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