Brad Guzan leads Aston Villa to opening-day Premier League upset of Arsenal

Martin Rogers
Yahoo! Sports

As the new Premier League season cranked into life on Saturday amid great fanfare, it was an American goalkeeper who stole the show by spearheading the biggest shock of opening day.

Aston Villa's Brad Guzan led his side to a huge upset by winning 3-1 at Arsenal with a series of spectacular saves that will only enhance his soaring reputation.

Guzan is currently the backup to Tim Howard on the United States squad and surely has designs on making the starting job his own in time for the World Cup next summer. Performances like this will do his cause no harm.

Two of Guzan's saves stood out, as much for their timing as for their execution. With Arsenal seeking to claw back from a 2-1 deficit, the American rushed off his line to smother a goal-bound effort from Tomas Rosicky that looked certain to pull the teams even.

Then, in the 78th minute he displayed fine reflexes to push away Santi Cazorla's fierce strike and preserve Villa's advantage.

Arsenal had not lost a home opener since 1993 and the locals made no secret of their frustration, with boos raining down on manager Arsene Wenger as soon as Antonio Luna's late goal added to Christian Benteke's pair of earlier penalties and effectively sealed the contest.

Their consternation was of no concern to Guzan, who gave another example of his transition into a fine PL goalkeeper, five years after leaving Chivas USA of Major League Soccer.

Guzan is an understated character, calm and quietly spoken away from the field. In his early years with Chivas his physical abilities and sense of positioning were excellent. The question was whether his personality was forceful enough to boss around a defense.

Those qualms have long since disappeared and Guzan and his backline seem to have a rapport that should ensure the club does not flirt with relegation danger in the way it did last season, before a late surge pushed them up to the 15th spot.

After Olivier Giroud put Arsenal ahead in the fifth minute there were few further lapses, though Villa did need a slice of fortune to clinch victory. Villa's second penalty kick likely should not have been awarded, with the foul call on Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny extremely harsh.

When Koscielny was red carded for another foul minutes later, Villa's hopes increased further, and Luna clinched victory with a breakaway goal with five minutes remaining. Back in 2007, when Guzan was still in MLS, Arsenal took a long, hard look at him and strongly considered bringing him in for what would have been a backup role. In the end they hesitated, and Villa came in to snap him up in what has proved to be a bargain fee of just more than $1 million.

That reticence to pull the trigger on transfers is the primary reason Arsenal supporters are so antsy right now. Wenger has money to spend, but has failed to bring in any world-class stars this summer.

The lack of positive energy and versatility in the Arsenal side was plain to see, and there will be serious concerns for a side whose Champions League campaign starts on Wednesday.

But there will be no complaints from Guzan or Villa, who grabbed the moment – and the headlines – on an impressive opening day.

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