Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta said the return of fans to Emirates Stadium as they outclassed Rapid Vienna in the Europa League made it a “very special night”.
It had been 271 days since Arsenal fans had last been at their home, for the victory against West Ham United on 7 March – and how the 2,000 allowed in relished watching the Gunners confirm their dominance of Group B.
“I’m delighted to have them back,” Arteta said. “They made a huge contribution. There was only 2,000 but it felt and sounded like a lot more.
“They were very supportive and encouraging to the team and the players have been saying what a huge difference it made. They felt that support.”
Alexandre Lacazette gave those gathered at a social distance inside the cavernous stadium an early reward with a spectacular 25-yard drive after 10 minutes that swerved high beyond the reach of Rapid keeper Richard Strebinger.
Pablo Mari then glanced Reiss Nelson’s corner in off a post before Eddie Nketiah completed the first-half scoring a minute before the interval, heading in after his first effort had been saved by the besieged Strebinger.
Rapid, hopelessly inferior, scrambled a goal back through Kohya Kitigawa early in the second half but Arsenal were never in any danger and substitute Emile Smith Rowe scored a simple fourth from Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ pass.