Socceroos goalkeeper Mat Ryan has impressed in his debut for Arsenal, the English Premier League club he supported as a kid, producing a number of classy saves in a 1-0 loss to Aston Villa.
It was a baptism of fire for Ryan as after just 74 seconds he was beaten by a deflected shot from Villa’s Ollie Watkins, the only goal of the match at Villa Park.
The goal came after a loose pass by Arsenal’s Cedric Soares, with Watkins’ strike deflecting off Rob Holding to squirm past Ryan.
But Ryan went on to make seven saves in a strong debut, including a diving stop to deny Jack Grealish late in the game.
He also stopped shots from Ross Barkley, John McGinn and Watkins in the second half and drew praise from Villa manager Dean Smith who later commented on Ryan’s “number of good saves”.
“On first reflection, I think there were plenty of positives for me and I loved being out there,” Ryan told Optus Sport after the match.
“It still hasn’t sunk in that it’s my childhood club that I supported and I just played for them.
“I think as it sinks in, post game and I reflect it will be nice. But I wanted the perfect start with the result.”
He later tweeted: “Wanted it so badly to be the perfect start with a win and clean sheet, gutted it didn’t eventuate. Proud moment today, but already focused on our next objective(s). Thank you all for the wishes for my debut and the warm welcome.”
The 28-year-old Ryan was signed on loan from Brighton last month and came into Arsenal’s starting side to replace Bernd Leno, who was suspended last week.
Asked after the match whether he had settled into life at Arsenal, Ryan replied: “I feel like it.
“Obviously with everything that’s been going on with my circumstances, I just tried to adopt the mentality of focusing on myself and readying myself for the next opportunity, whenever or whether that may come.
“I think it was probably down to all that, that I was able to come in and have a performance like I did.
“Unfortunately I wasn’t able to help us with the result. ‘It was a deflection and I haven’t watched it back yet, but there wasn’t a lot I could do I don’t think. It felt good to be out there though, I loved being out there.”
Villa’s 1-0 win lifted them above Tottenham to eighth on the Premier League table, while Arsenal remained at 10th.