Arsenal 2 (Saka 6, Odegaard 13) Wolves 1 (Cunha 86)
Wolves put on a valiant display on their return to the capital for the second time in a week as their second half fightback against Arsenal fell narrowly short.
Matheus Cunha struck just five minutes from the end of the 90 to get the Old Gold back within a goal of the Gunners who produced a devastating opening 15 minutes to the match to go two goals ahead through Bakayo Sako and Martin Odegaard.
Wolves battled hard throughout the remainder of the game, but it wasn’t to be for the visitors, who left north London empty handed once again.
Arsenal came out of the blocks flying as they returned to the Emirates off the back of a 6-0 home drubbing of Lens in the Champions League in midweek.
The visitors were at sixes and sevens as they tried to deal with the intricate attacking play of the Gunners and paid the price in the sixth minute of the contest.
Arsenal’s quick passing and movement caught Wolves out for the opening goal as Saka started and then finished the move by firing low into the bottom left corner following good work by Gabriel Jesus and Takehiro Tomiyasu in the build-up.
Odegaard was pulling the strings in the Arsenal midfield throughout the opening 15 minutes and he helped put his side two goals ahead after another move which cut Wolves apart. One touch passing from Oleksandr Zinchenko and Jesus saw the ball fall to the feet of the Norwegian on the edge of the Wolves box, and he fired a first-time effort into the far corner.
Following Arsenal’s second, Wolves goalkeeper Jose Sa required treatment which would ultimately see the Portuguese be replaced by Dan Bentley midway through the first half, to make his first Premier League outing of the season, but not before Sa made a decent stop to deny Leandro Trossard in a one-on-one situation.
As the half progressed, Wolves grew into the game, although the men in Old Gold were struggling to capitalise on any of their positive play, with the Gunners keeping O’Neil’s side at bay. The closest the visitors came to getting a goal back came through Tommy Doyle set-pieces, but Wolves were unable to test David Raya in the Arsenal goal.
The hosts twice came close to adding a third before the break, as Gabriel Martinelli struck the base of Bentley’s left-hand post, before Declan Rice fired wide – via a deflection – moments later, while the Wolves goalkeeper had to be alert to get down to his left to stop Jesus’ goalbound effort in added time.
The half finished with Wolves feeling they should have had a penalty when Cunha went down inside the Arsenal box under a challenge from Gabriel, but referee Peter Bankes was unmoved. The replays appeared to show the defender get to the ball as he tried to stop the striker from dancing past him.
Half-time | Arsenal 2-0 Wolves
Arsenal tried to make another quick start following half-time, with Saka heavily involved down the right, but his crosses into the box just couldn’t be turned home – although VAR did try to intervene on a chance which saw Jesus just narrowly unable to reach.
The visitors’ best chance of the game to that point came on 52 minutes, just moments after Hee Chan Hwang volleyed a Hugo Bueno cross well wide, as Cunha found space for himself inside the Arsenal penalty area, and after twisting and turning to get past Rice, he fired a bullet at goal, but Raya was able to palm away his effort from the near post.
As the half wore on, Wolves kept trying to get themselves back into the contest, but they could just not break their opponent down, with Arsenal comfortably dealing with everything the gold and black shirts threw their way.
Although having dropped their pace from how they started the game, the Gunners were still posing a threat to the Wolves rearguard, with Rice continuing his search for a goal but shooting off target, while Saka came close to finding the top corner, but Bentley – at full stretch – was happy to see the ball curl narrowly over his crossbar.
Wolves were then in debt to their substitute keeper for making a fantastic double stop to deny Trossard and Saka. The first saw the Belgian through on goal having found space in the Wolves defence, but Bentley stood strong to block his effort, before doing the same to close down Saka on the follow up.
Moments later, Wolves finally closed the gap. This time, the gold and black shirts were able to capitalise on a mix-up in the Arsenal defence. After they we unable to clear under pressure from substitute Pablo Sarabia, the ball fell to the feet of Cunha inside the box and he lashed an unstoppable effort inside the far post.
This sparked the game into life as it entered added time. It went from end to end as both teams were looking to get a goal. Eddie Nketiah struck the post for the visitors after beating the offside trap, while Nelson Semedo’s cross caused confusion in the Arsenal box, and despite appeals for a penalty for handball, VAR confirmed the on-field call.
Wolves threw everything they had at Arsenal in the closing stages as they looked to grab an equaliser, with cross after cross into the area, but the home side stood strong and saw the game out.
Full-time | Arsenal 2-1 Wolves
Arsenal | Raya, Tomiyasu (White 79), Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko, Rice, Trossard, Odegaard (Jorginho 90), Saka (Kiwior 90), Martinelli (Havertz 77), Jesus (Nketiah 67).
Unused subs | Ramsdale, Cedric, Elneny, Nelson.
Wolves | Sa (Bentley 23), Semedo, Kilman, Dawson, Toti, H. Bueno (Doherty 62), Traore, Doyle (Kalajdzic 90), Bellegarde (Sarabia 62), Hwang, Cunha.
Unused subs | S. Bueno, Hubner, Whittingham, Chirewa, Silva.
Referee | Peter Bankes