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Lacazette revitalised but no doubt about Arsenal’s real heroes vs Rapid Vienna

Alexandre Lacazette slid on his knees towards the fans to celebrate in style.

It has been so long that you almost forgot what a real crowd sounded like – and it was just wonderful.

There were 2,000 lucky fans inside the Emirates but they made so much noise that it sounded like ten times as many.

They sang their hearts out for 90 minutes, it was a special night for them but you could also see just how much the players have missed them.

At the final whistle, Mikel Arteta and his players went over to the two stands where they were sitting and applauded them as if they were the real heroes of the night.

Make no mistake. Lacazette was not the only one with an extra spring in his step as it lifted a team which has been playing with no confidence or belief.

Lacazette celebrates scoring their first goal infront of their fans

You could see it made the world of difference and it should serve as a reminder to football never to take supporters for granted ever again.

You can keep your artificial crowd noise.

There is nothing like the real thing, real fans whipping up an atmosphere in a Premier League stadium for the first time in nine months.

The face masks, staggered entry, health forms and temperature checks all felt worth it on a night to give us hope that one day stadiums all over the country might be full again.

Fans were back – and they made a difference

A banner put up by Supporters

There are so many gags about the Emirates being quiet, empty seats and Arsenal fans but this lot made the occasion and the club’s mascot Gunnersaurus was even there as well.

It was all too easy for Arsenal against second rate opposition but this was a reminder that fans can lift teams, change the mood and, for Arteta, it was a night to savour a disastrous November.

The first goal came after ten minutes when Lacazette picked up a loose ball in midfield, strode forward and then unleashed a shot from at least 25 yards.

It dipped, swerved and completely deceived Rapid Vienna keeper Richard Strebinger as Lacazette’s shot flew into the net.

That was his first goal since September and his 20th in 43 Europa League games.

That just shows what a little bit of encouragement can do for a player who has been hopelessly out of form.

Catch me if you can!

Arsenal got a second goal after 17 minutes when Reiss Nelson put over a corner and there was fit-again defender Pablo Mari to glance home at the near post.

Lacazette hit the post after 27 minutes and then Eddie Nketiah got a third after 44 minutes when he headed home after Strebinger saved his first shot.

Rapid Vienna pulled one back after 47 minutes through Kohya Kitagaw but Arsenal substitute Emile Smith-Rowe restored the three goal advantage late on just after coming on.

And there was a nice moment when fit-again Calum Chambers came on to a rousing reception from the fans on his first team return after a long term knee injury.

Player Ratings

Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Runarsson 5; Cedric 6, Mustafi 6 (Chambers, 70), Pablo Mari 7, Kolasinac 7; Maitland-Niles 7, Elneny 7 (Ceballos, 63, 6); Pepe 7, Lacazette 8 (Smith-Rowe, 63, 6), Nelson 7 (Willian, 63, 6); Nketiah 7 (Balogun, 81).

Rapid Vienna (3-5-2): Strebinger 6; Sonnleitner 5, Hofmann 5 (Barac, 46, 6), Greiml; 5 Arase 6, Demir 6, Schuster 6, Ritzmaier 5 (Knasmüllner, 66, 6), Ullmann 5 (Schick, 46, 6); Kitagawa 6 (Kara, 66, 6), Alar 6.

Man of the match: Lacazette

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