Arsenal 2 (Sanchez 38, Rosicky 65) – Queen’s Park Rangers 1 (Austin 78)
Man of the Match – Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal)
5 days after the pulsating draw against Liverpool at Anfield, Arsenal were again stretched to their limits, but this time somehow managed to garner all 3 points, despite going down to 10 men for majority of the second half. Queen’s Park, spurred by a Charlie Austin hattrick 6 days earlier in a 3-2 win over West Bromwich Albion at Selhurst Park were the visitors.
With Nacho Monreal returning from his injury problems, the manager decided to give young Callum Chambers a breather and started with the Spanish international alongside Per Mertesacker in the centre of defense. With injuries mounting, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain the latest to join the list, the manager decided to start with Tomas Rosicky, who hasn’t started a league game all season, while Francis Coquelin, prematurely recalled from his loan at Charlton Athletic was on the bench.
QPR, who have been terrible away from their West London home, started on the backfoot, as Arsenal looked to take advantage of home conditions. Arsenal were awarded a penalty in as early as the 9th minute, when former Arsenal left-back Armand Traore fouled Alexis Sanchez in the box. Santi Cazorla, the usual penalty taker, who had scored two penalties in recent weeks against Stoke and Newcastle didn’t take it. Instead, it was the Chilean Sanchez, whose rather weak shot was saved by England international goalkeeper Robert Green, who has a knack of turning up in games against the Gunners.
Arsenal continued to dominate the game, but failed to create anything substantial, as QPR put on a brave defending show. In the 25th minute, Giroud let one fly over the post, before Alexis did the same. Green was required to stretch to the fullest to prevent a Giroud free kick from going in, before another shot from the Frenchman was deflected wide by former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand. Mathieu Debuchy could only skittle the resultant free kick over.
However, Arsenal got the goal they deserved, 7 minutes from the break, as a well worked move from the Gunners ended up with Gibbs crossing in for an unmarked Sanchez who had the simple task of heading the ball home. It was the Chilean’s 15th goal of the season, 10th in the Premier League. QPR almost equalized moments later when a Steven Caulker header almost sneaked in, but Arsenal managed to go into the break with a goal advantage.
The game changing moment came in the 53rd minute when Olivier Giroud was sent off for stupidly headbutting QPR defender Nedum Onouha in a fit of rage. The Frenchman felt he had been pushed by the former Manchester City man as he bore down on goal, and proceeded to headbutt the defender, though Onouha went down like a pack of cards. It was a reckless moment from Giroud, and he got what he deserved, a red card and a cold stare from the manager as he made his way to the dressing room. He will miss the next 3 games, away trips to West Ham and Southampton, and a FA Cup 3rd Round clash against Hull City.
Harry Redknapp sensed that this was the chance to blood some attacking players, and sent on Junior Hoilett and Leroy Fer for Armand Traore and Karl Henry. The Gunners, however, got the decisive second goal, when Alexis evaded a host of QPR players, before spotting the run of Tomas Rosicky. The Czech captain finished comprehensively and celebrated like he usually does. It was his first goal in his first start of the season, and hopefully it should convince the manager to give the veteran more first team chances.
QPR had a bit of a good spell after that, with Croat Niko Kranjcar going wide, and Mauricio Isla, international teammate of Alexis Sanchez, forced Szczesny into a save. A Cazorla freekick went just over the bar, before Bobby Zamora was bought on for Jordan Mutch. Debuchy set up Alexis, but the Chilean’s effort curled wide, before Alexis almost set up a goal for Welbeck, but his effort was deflected and saved by Green.
QPR were given a route back into the game when referee Martin Atkinson harshly adjudged Mathieu Debuchy to have fouled winger Junior Hoilett in the box, though replays suggested the French right-back had pushed the ball away first. In-form striker Charlie Austin spanked the ball right down the centre to make it 2-1. Nervous moments for Arsenal were back, and the tireless Rosicky had to be replaced by Callum Chambers as Arsene Wenger looked to see out the 2-1 win with a 5 man defence.
QPR used the wings effectively, and Kranjcar’s shot went just over. Francis Coquelin came on for Danny Welbeck. Flamini came to Arsenal’s rescue twice, first when he deflected a Hoilett shot for a corner, and from the resultant corner, made a goal line clearance off an Isla header in the 88th minute. Arsenal were hanging by the width of the thread. First, Monreal blocked a Leroy Fer shot, before Bobby Zamora tumbled in the box, under a challenge from Gibbs. Luckily for Arsenal, Atkinson failed to spot it. The final chance of the game was a free kick to QPR, which Kranjcar shot over.
So, 3 points in the bag then. And every point is precious in the league. Another London derby in 48 hours time, as Arsenal travel to Upton Park to face high-flying West Ham, who lost 2-0 at Stamford Bridge to league leaders Chelsea.
Jai Arsenal 🙂
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