Monday 21 October 2019

Teenager Bukayo Saka achieves dreams by making full Arsenal debut

The 17-year-old forward impressed in Europa League win over Qarabag.

Bukayo Saka made his full Arsenal debut in Thursday’s win over Europa League opponents Qarabag. (Adam Davy/PA)
Bukayo Saka made his full Arsenal debut in Thursday’s win over Europa League opponents Qarabag. (Adam Davy/PA)

By Mark Mann-Bryans, Press Association Sport

Bukayo Saka achieved a “dream come true” as he made his full Arsenal debut in Thursday’s Europa League win over Qarabag.

Alexandre Lacazette scored the only goal in the 1-0 victory in what was a dead-rubber game with the Gunners already assured of top spot in Group E.

Mesut Ozil also played as Laurent Koscielny made his comeback from an Achilles injury that has kept his sidelined since May.

Alexandre Lacazette (right) scored the only goal of the game as Arsenal beat Qarabag. (Adam Davy/PA)

However, it was the performance of Saka which caught the eye – the 17-year-old forward providing a spark on what was an otherwise forgettable evening in north London.

“It is a dream come true,” the England Under-19 international said after the game.

“Ever since I joined the club at the age of eight I always dreamed of playing at the Emirates so for all the coaches and the fans to support me tonight was really good.

“I didn’t start too fast but I grew into the game and that’s what I wanted to do. I started to get past my man and create chances and I could have scored at the end, I don’t know what happened.”

Saka made his debut off the bench away to Vorskla Poltava last month but was excited to step out at the Emirates Stadium to represent the senior side for the first time.

“It was Wednesday in training,” he said when asked when he knew he would be playing.

“We went through the team and (head coach Unai Emery) called it out and I couldn’t believe it, but I just had to get on with it.

“I just focused, and I couldn’t stop thinking about today and how I was going to play, and I think it turned out alright. But I should have got my goal.

“I think I just need to keep playing well at academy level and any chance I have an opportunity to train with the first team I need to impress the head coach and show him what I can do, so he can believe in me like he did tonight.”

Emery was suitably impressed with Saka’s display and praised the personality of the Arsenal academy product.

Unai Emery’s Arsenal are now on a 22-match unbeaten run. (Adam Davy/PA)

“Saka played with a good performance,” the Spaniard said.

“With a very big personality and we were speaking at half-time. His personality is very important for us to continue trying to go one-v-one and break lines with his quality.

“He played with a very big personality and sometimes with a very good performance.

“It’s very important for his confidence and for us also, because we can look at this player and see quality to help us.”

– UEFA has opened disciplinary proceedings against Arsenal relating to pitch invasion during the game, plus a late kick-off.

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