A Freddie Ljungberg goal after only 80 seconds and a second-half Robert Pires penalty gave Arsenal victory over Ajax.
Ljungberg, playing as a makeshift striker, collected Jose Antonio Reyes' pass before clipping a clever finish past Hans Vonk to open the scoring.
Arsenal doubled their advantage when Pires coolly slotted in from the spot after Reyes had been felled by Vonk.
Almost immediately, Ajax's Markus Rosenberg tapped in after Tomas Galasek hit the post but Arsenal stood firm.
A buoyant Ajax crowd had been in full voice before the kick off, perhaps sensing their team had a great opportunity to collect three points.
Arsenal had a missing contingent which included Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp - who had accumulated 300 European appearances and 78 goals between them.
But less than two minutes in, Arsenal's 21-year-old midfielder Matthieu Flamini, in for the injured Gilberto, launched an attack that silenced the home fans.
He intercepted Urby Emanuelson's pass and quickly slipped the ball to Reyes, whose clever through-ball allowed Ljungberg to supply an inventive finish.
It made left-back Emanuelson nervous for the rest of the half - and Ajax also looked shaky on the right side of defence.
But in tricky winger Ryan Babel they had an offensive outlet which caused Ashley Cole a number of problems.
However, he cut an isolated figure as Arsenal, marshalled superbly by Sol Campbell, snuffed out any spark he created.
Going forward, though, Arsenal could not carve any clear chances - a Robert Pires free-kick was charged down and Reyes shot wide from distance.
And as the interval beckoned, it was Ajax who threatened as Nourdin Boukhari cut the ball across box, but Steve Pienaar lashed his effort off target.
After the break, Ajax looked a more determined team.
Babel's stinging shot was smartly saved by Manuel Almunia, who had looked uncertain when he spilled Boukhari's speculative first-half drive.
Then Nigel De Jong struck a low shot, which had Almunia scrambling and relieved to see the ball skid wide.
But in pouring forward, Ajax were beginning to leave space at the back.
And when Reyes beat the offside trap with a perfectly-timed run, Ajax keeper Vonk brought him down.
Vonk picked himself up before his misery was compounded as Pires' penalty sent him diving the wrong way.
However, Ajax's response was immediate as a fierce drive from Galasek was pushed on to the post by Almunia and Rosenberg reacted fastest to halve his side's deficit.
The hosts pushed hard for an equaliser but Arsenal defended bravely, typified by a bandaged Kolo Toure - hurt in an earlier clash of heads with Angelos Charisteas.
Ajax: Vonk, De Jong, Grygera, Vermaelen, Emanuelson (Juanfran 85), Pienaar, Galasek, Lindenbergh, Babel, Boukhari (Manucharian 69), Charisteas (Rosenberg 57).
Subs Not Used: Lobont, Heitinga, Escude, Boakye.
Booked: Grygera, Pienaar, Vonk, Galasek.
Goals: Rosenberg 71.
Arsenal: Almunia, Lauren, Toure, Campbell, Cole, Hleb (Cygan 90), Fabregas, Flamini, Pires (Clichy 88), Ljungberg, Reyes (Owusu-Abeyie 81).
Subs Not Used: Poom, Song Billong, Eboue, Lupoli.
Booked: Toure, Almunia.
Goals: Ljungberg 2, Pires 69 pen.
Ref: Luis Medina Cantalejo (Spain).