MAT RYAN spent his childhood in Australia dreaming of playing for Arsenal.
Little did he imagine that when the time finally came to fulfil that ambition, his very first touch would be to pick the ball out of his net.
The 28-year-old Aussie international jumped at the opportunity to sign for the Gunners on loan after being ruthlessly dumped by Brighton boss Graham Potter last month.
He knew he was only joining as the back-up keeper but received an earlier than expected opportunity as a result of Bernd Leno’s red card during Tuesday’s 2-1 defeat at Wolves.
And even though Ryan had been struggling with a hip injury all week, he was always going to get the nod over the unconvincing Alex Runarsson.
But any hopes of a clean sheet debut were dashed within 74 seconds when he was beaten by Ollie Watkins’ first time shot.
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In fairness to Ryan, he was completely wrong-footed by a deflection off Rob Holding which just carried the ball beyond his reach.
But you do wonder if a taller keeper might still have been able to get a hand to the shot and maybe divert it around the far post.
Not that Ryan was anywhere near as culpable as Cedric Soares and Holding for the setback which put Arsenal on the back foot right from the start.
But at just six feet tall he is always going to struggle to command his penalty area in the manner which Arsenal are used to from Leno.
To his credit, he didn’t let his head drop after that early blow and earned his corn with a crucial 31st minute save from Bertrand Traore, staying on his feet and standing his ground when the Villa winger cheekily tried to chip him.
A goal then would have left Arsenal with a mountain to climb and further vital saves from Watkins, John McGinn and Jack Grealoish kept his new club in contention right to the end.
But he knows that Leno will be straight back into the team now that his suspension has been served.
And now Ryan must fear that he could have played his last game as well as his first for Arsenal.
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