LONDON (AP)Conceding a goal after just nine seconds and going 2-0 down in the second half wasn’t enough to derail Arsenal’s title bid in the English Premier League.
Substitute Reiss Nelson scored the winner with a fierce volley deep into injury time as Arsenal recovered to beat Bournemouth 3-2 on Saturday and maintain a five-point lead atop the league.
The Gunners had to dig deep for this one after being caught out straight from the kickoff.
Philip Billing put the visitors ahead after just nine seconds to stun the Emirates Stadium crowd, some of whom had not even reached their seats yet. And things got worse in the 57th when Marcos Senesi headed home the second goal for Bournemouth from a corner.
But Thomas Partey began the comeback in the 62nd and Ben White scored his first Arsenal goal to equalize in the 70th.
Arsenal has made a habit of late winners recently and came up with the latest yet when Nelson capped the comeback in the seventh minute of injury time. The winger, who also set up White’s equalizer, downed the ball on his chest outside the area following another corner and hit a perfectly struck volley into the far corner.
Once more, it was an academy product who came through for Arsenal.
Nelson was widely viewed as one of the brightest prospects to come out of the London club’s Hale End academy but has since been overshadowed by Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Eddie Nketiah after a string of injury problems and loan moves. This was just his third league appearance of the season and he had been on the field for only a minute before setting up White’s equalizer, and netting the biggest goal of his Arsenal career.
“It’s amazing. When the ball came out to me I eyed it up. Everyone went crazy when it went in,” Nelson said. “It’s a great moment for me. I have been here all my life and it means a lot.”
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta made three changes to his starting lineup in a rare attempt to rotate. Granit Xhaka was on the bench for the first time in the league this season. That meant it was the first time since Arsene Wenger stepped down in 2018 that Arsenal fielded a starting lineup in the league where none of the players had featured under the Frenchman.
But they were caught napping straight away
Joe Rothwell received the kickoff and lobbed the ball down the right flank for Dango Ouattara, whose cross into the box found Billing for an easy finish. According to stats provider Opta, the goal was scored after 9.11 seconds, making it the second fastest in the league after Shane Long’s goal within 8 seconds for Southampton against Watford in 2019.
Bournemouth goalkeeper Neto had to make a double save in the fourth minute to stop Arsenal from scoring a quick equalizer, getting down low to stop a shot from Martin Odegaard and getting back up quickly to deny Saka from converting the rebound.
But Arsenal couldn’t seriously threaten Neto for the rest of the first half despite dominating possession, and the crowd was already growing restless by the time Senesi lost his marker and was left free to head in a corner past Aaron Ramsdale.
But Arsenal didn’t take long to start the comeback.
After Neto punched out a corner, Smith Rowe headed it back toward goal and Partey was there to hammer it home from close range. The hosts kept pushing forward and Nelson swung in a cross from the left that found White on the opposite side of area, and the defender struck a first-time volley that crossed the line before Neto was able to punch it away.
And just when it looked like Arsenal would have to settle for a draw, Nelson’s goal sparked some of the biggest celebrations Emirates Stadium has seen this season.
“It was just mad,” Arteta said. “Those feelings of happiness and joy. It was a really special way and it took until the last second to earn it. I am really proud of them. They never gave up. There is nothing like sharing those great moments with your people. I’m so happy for (Nelson).”
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports