Arsenal’s return to Europe went smoothly in a game that will take a strange, unwanted place in history. A minute’s silence may not have been observed before too many other second halves, but before the restart, players from both sides linked arms and stood around the center circle to honor the Queen’s memory as the news of her death was announced at the end of the inaugural period.
A section of the away support had already performed the national anthem and the stadium staff, to their credit, reacted quickly to show an image of the monarch on the big screens at either end along with words of condolence.
Mikel Arteta will have been pleased with how Arsenal handled the task against a limited FC Zürich and particularly buoyed by an eye-opening debut from Marquinhos. The young Brazilian winger scored their first and, after Mirlind Kryeziu equalized from the penalty spot, he set up the winner for Eddie Nketiah. Arsenal have not felt the effects of seven changes too much and have taken early control of Group A.
What a moment it was the first step for Marquinhos, who Arsenal had resisted taking on loan after his arrival from São Paulo. The 19-year-old was visibly emotional after the goal. Nketiah had been released on the left by Fabio Vieira, who was making his first start, but his delivery had to be perfect if Marquinhos was to have a clear chance. It was beautifully weighted and converted, on the run, with a right-footed finish into the top corner.
Marquinhos had already shown a finished product, cutting in on his left foot four minutes earlier and finding Gabriel Martinelli. The resulting header was off target, but Zurich could not heed the warning. In the post-concession period they found every kind of possession a luxury. Arsenal were dominant and Vieira, pulling the strings, hit the roof of the net. Granit Xhaka, who was booed loudly because of his Basel roots, saw a low drive tipped over by Yannick Brecher.
The Swiss champions, playing 40 miles from home due to double booking at a Diamond League track and field meeting, were strongly supported but offered modest opposition. Another Arsenal debutant, goalkeeper Matt Turner, had given them an early boost by presenting the ball to Tosin Aygun, but the striker hit the post from a corner.
They started to threaten sporadically before the interval, Kieran Tierney pouncing on Ole Selnæs’ shot, but it was a surprise when they equalised. They had Nketiah to thank for challenging a striker on Fidan Aliti after the corner was not fully taken. It was a hasty tackle and an undisputed penalty. A Kosovar defender had been fouled. another, Kryeziu, beat Turner.
The Arsenal support were unimpressed by the booing at the home end during the delicate reflection and made their feelings clear. They then watched their side rediscover their dominance, Martinelli seeing a shot headed away by Krieziu before Tierney and Nketia went close. Just after the hour Martinelli hit a difficult volley and Zurich, whose response was a speculative effort from Aiyegun to catch Turner by surprise, was left behind.
Not for long. By now another Arsenal goal was inevitable and Nketiah will have been relieved to atone for his mistake. It was Marquinhos, showing shades of Bukayo Saka in his ability to run inside and deliver with precision, who picked him out and the far post header was firmly past Brecher. The hosts booed and booed in response but had no answer this time and substitute Gabriel Jesus almost made it three late.