North London rivals buoyed ahead of European opener

LONDON • Arsene Wenger believes his Arsenal side can go into their Champions League tie against Paris Saint-Germain tomorrow with renewed confidence despite their narrow Premier League win on Saturday.

The Frenchman breathed a sigh of relief after the Gunners won a controversial stoppage-time penalty against Southampton and Santi Cazorla struck a 94th-minute winner to secure a 2-1 win.

Arsenal had won at Watford before the international break, having taken only one point from their first two games of the season.

"Two wins together is a big help. It gives players more confidence to get to where we want to be," said Wenger.

Arsenal endured a frustrating match as they drew level after Laurent Koscielny's overhead kick cancelled out Petr Cech's early own goal. But they were unable to find the cutting edge to match their superiority. The breakthrough came at the death after Jose Fonte was penalised for tangling with Olivier Giroud in the box, with the Portugal defender becoming the latest player to be punished for holding in the penalty area in light of stricter Premier League directives this season.

"Honestly, everyone is telling me it was a penalty, but I've not yet seen it again," Wenger said. "It is a relief, because we missed many chances and they had one or two opportunities having thrown everything forward."

The penalty decision prompted furious protests from the Southampton players and visiting coach Claude Puel was left seething with referee Bobby Madley's call.

"It's very hard for my players, a big disappointment," said Puel. "Both players went to play the ball. It's very hard to take, we could have won that game."

Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino was also confident his side will do well against Monaco in their opening Champions League fixture on Wednesday after they whipped Stoke City 4-0 in the Premier League on Saturday.

The Argentinian believes his players have shaken off the hangover of last season's meltdown in the Premier League title race.

"We have a very hard season with the Champions League and everything and it's important we have everyone competing," he said. "After four games unbeaten, you can see the players are thinking about the new season and the new challenge. We have forgotten the past."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2016, with the headline 'North London rivals buoyed ahead of European opener'. Print Edition | Subscribe