SINGAPORE: His fancy flicks were greeted by a palpable buzz of excitement and his opening goal for Arsenal on Saturday night (Jul 28) was met with a roar of approval from fans at the Singapore National Stadium.
Mesut Ozil more than entertained the 50,300-strong crowd, including Singapore's Olympic champion Joseph Schooling, as the English Premier League side thrashed French champions Paris Saint Germain (PSG) 5-1 in the International Champions Cup.
A early goal from the German got the Gunners up and running, before PSG struck back with a spot kick from Christopher Nkunku. A late Alexandre Lacazette double then sealed the win for Unai Emery’s men, before a Rob Holding header and an Eddie Nketiah finish put a gloss on proceedings.
Mired in a racism row which led him to announce his retirement from the international game, Ozil had been the name on football fans' lips since Arsenal’s arrival in Singapore.
An unused substitute for the Gunners’ penalty shootout loss to Atletico Madrid on Thursday, the playmaker took to the field against PSG as captain - this time he was one of the headline acts rather than part of the supporting cast.
It was PSG that started the game the brighter of the two sides, Thomas Tuchel’s men were menacing in possession, with the livewire Timothy Weah causing problems.
It took more than 10 minutes for Arsenal to find their footing - Ozil whipping in a tantalising cross which was met by Shkodran Mustafi’s flick-on, but Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang was a stretch away from tapping home.
Unai Emery’s men took the lead in the 13th minute. A sublime through ball from Henrik Mkhitaryan found Aubameyang in acres of space, and his cross was tucked home by Ozil to raucous cheers from the crowd.
PSG weren’t the only ones taken to task by Ozil. Singaporean referee Nathan Chan was lustily booed several minutes after failing to award a penalty when Ozil seemed to be tugged back in the box.
Arsenal were knocking on the door, and a smart flick from Ozil found Mkhitaryan, whose pass played in Alex Iwobi. But the Nigerian could only prod a shot at Gianluigi Buffon.
PSG could have easily found their equaliser moments later, as a flamboyant Ozil dummy on the edge of the box failed to materialise and Bernd Leno had to adjust to bail his skipper out with a smart stop.
Arsenal looked like they had their foot off the gas after the half-time break and they were punished as PSG were awarded with a penalty.
Beating his marker for pace, Weah’s probing run into the box was halted by a crude tackle from Sead Kolasinac. Up stepped youngster Nkunku, who smashed the spot kick past Leno.
The Gunners weren’t behind for long, as substitute Emile Smith Rowe - on for Ozil - picked out Lacazette and the Frenchman finished neatly off the underside of the crossbar.
Arsenal made it three in the 71st minute - as Lacazette bundled home from close range after a goalmouth melee.
A looping header by Holding was the nail in the coffin for PSG, as the young defender scored Arsenal’s fourth a few minutes from time.
Substitute Nketiah added insult to injury with Arsenal’s fifth in stoppage time.
The Gunners will now return home with a massive confidence boost and the added assurance that the enigmatic Ozil is capable of not just doing his talking off the pitch, but could be back to his best on it.