Arsenal 1 (Sanchez 89) – Southampton 0
Man of the Match – Frazer Forster (Southampton)
There’s this palpable sense of relief at late goals. It’s a feeling that’s hard to describe, and one that can only be experienced. It seems like steam coming out of a pressure cooker. When Olivier Giroud’s looping header seemed destined to go in, and Frazer Forster popped out of nowehere to put the ball out of play, you knew it was another one of those days, when it just wouldn’t go your way!
Far too often we have witnessed opposition teams hanging out for a draw at the Emirates in countless frustrating matches. Teams packing their defence, not allowing Arsenal play their passing game, pressing hard and breaking down buildup momentum. Last night was another such ocassion, but one that ended up with Arsenal picking up all 3 points for their endavor. Having been shut out by an industrious Saints’ side for the entire duration of the match, it took a chance finish from Sanchez to garner 3 important points.
With pre-match concern over the fitness over the left-backs, both Nacho Monreal and Kieran Gibbs were declared fit, with Nacho Monreal keeping his place in the starting lineup. Emiliano Martinez continued deputizing for Wojciech Szczesny and David Ospina in goal. Olivier Giroud started from the bench, as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain returned to the starting line-up, after concerns over a slight strain he picked up, late on after coming as a substitute in the 1-0 win over West Bromwich Albion.
Santi Cazorla, who provided all the assists in the 2-0 win over Dortmund and 1-0 win over West Brom set up Danny Welbeck in the 8th minute, but the England forward’s finish was poor and wayward. Italian striker Grazianno Pelle had a great chance to put the visitors ahead after a wonderful one-two, but his left footed effort was way too high and not so handsome.
The first half was a very cagey affair. Southampton were doing brilliantly at what they had come to do. Stifling the hell out of Arsenal. Arsenal were struggling to get some passing together, before Southampton mopped it up with some heavy pressing in a tight midfield. Victor Wanyama was the chief in-charge, as he made several tackles and broke Arsenal’s play. In the 26th minute, a shot from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was saved by Forster, after some good buildup play between Cazorla and Welbeck. Welbeck then tried a back heel but it went off a Southampton player.
Southampton right-back Jack Cork had to be replaced by Japanese international Maya Yoshida, after failing to run off an ankle strain. Danny Welbeck came close again towards the end of the first half, when his header from a Cazorla free-kick looked like it would creep under the post, but the lanky Forster’s outstretched hands prevented the Gunners from going into the break with an advantage.
The start of the second half was a mirror of the first half, with Aaron Ramsey being wasteful, shooting high and wide, before Laurent Koscielny put in a solid last minute lunge to prevent Pelle from scoring. Arsenal, prone to being caught on counterattacks, almost conceded when Shane Long had a great chance to round it off to the unmarked Pelle, but he decided to take the shot himself, and skied it, much to the frustration of the Italian.
Arsenal were looking lacklustre, and when a change was needed, it came in the form of Olivier Giroud, who replaced Chamberlain, who went off to boos. The Frenchman had an immediate impact, with his deft touch. And handsomeness. And well carved body. He forced Forster into a save, after a pass from Alexis. He then subtly backheeled a pass to Welbeck, who was unmarked, but he was too close to the keeper. The shot rebounded off Forster’s palms, but Giroud was unable to capitalize on it, under pressure from Saints’ defenders.
With Frazer Forster looking invincible, the manager decided to bring on his German left-footed cannon, as Lukas Podolski came on for Danny Welbeck with just 9 minutes on the clock. Southampton had completed their quota of substitutions when Belgian international Toby Alderweireld, loaned from Atletico Madrid, couldn’t continue with a hamstring problem.
Forster’s best moment of the match came in the 87th minute, when a brilliant cross from Podolski was met by an equally brilliant looping header from Giroud, and met by an equally brilliant save from the England international, just as it seemed the ball would creep into the goal. It didn’t matter though.
After two valid shouts for penalties were ignored by the referee, Arsenal got the reward for a testing week, as Aaron Ramsey drove into the penalty area and played a ball across the goal. Alexis Sanchez had the easy job of putting it into the back of the net. 1-0 to the Arsenal. Relief, and some calm between my ears.
Forster made another fine save, before Podolski had a chance to make it 2-0, but the angle was too acute as his ball rolled past the goal. Arsenal held on for their second successive 1-0 win, and it’s now 3 wins in a week. Hopefully, the slide has been arrested. I could get more used to these 1-0 wins now.
Jai Arsenal 🙂
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