In the end it was job done for Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal side as they defeated Burnley 2-1 to move up to second in the table following their rivals inability to take maximum points yesterday. It was far from plain sailing for the Gunners however in a match laced with controversy.
The game started as most expected with the Gunners dominating possession and showing some slick passing combinations around the edge of the Burnley box , by the 15th minute the home side had already racked up 7 attempts on goal. Burnley defended stubbornly however and Arsenal struggled to create any real clear cut openings despite their dominance.
Sean Dyche’s side looked dangerous themselves on their rare forays forward through Andre Gray and Ashley Barnes, with Peter Cech having to be on his toes to deny both of Burnley’s strikers during the first half. Just before the break Arsenals best chance fell to talisman Alexi Sanchez who curled an effort from 14 yards just wide of the top corner, such is the class of the Chilean its a chance you expected him to take. Going in at half time Burnley would have been the happier side having restricted the Gunners to mostly speculative efforts from the edge of the area and their keeper Tom Heaton had not been forced into making any real top class saves.
As the second half got under way the game slipped back into a familiar pattern as Arsenal continued to probe in search of the opening goal , Aaron Ramsey came close with a attempted scorpion kick from 4 yards out after Girouds flick on. Arsenal had a decent penalty appeal for a foul on Shokran Mustafi turned down on 55 minutes and the German International would remain in the thick of the action 3 minutes later when he flicked a Mesut Ozil corner into the bottom corner to give the Gunners the lead.
It seemed Arsenal having finally made the breakthrough would go on to add a couple more goals to their lead and cruise to a comfortable victory against a Burnley side who have taken only 1 point away from home all season. Not so , the game was completely turned on its head on 64 minutes when Granit Xhaka was given a straight red for a foul on Steven Defour. Upon seeing the replay it may have been a tad harsh although he did go in off the ground with 2 feet , so you could see why referee Mike Ross felt the need to brandish the red card. That was Xhaka’s 2nd red card of the season and he will now miss Arsenals crunch class with leaders Chelsea.
Arsenal being reduced to 10 men gave Burnley renewed impetus going into the last 20 minutes and Sean Dyche brought on Sam Vokes to effectively make it 3 up front for the Clarets. Burnley’s full back pairing of Steven Ward and Matthew Lowton began to push on and get the ball into the box at every opportunity. Petr Cech and Arsenals defence seemed to be dealing with the Burnley pressure well and apart from a excellent Gabriel block on Barnes after a Vokes flick on , the Gunners seemed to be seeing the game out quite comfortably.
The officials then indicated 7 minutes of injury time allowing plenty of time for more drama , and drama is exactly what we got. On 92 minutes Arsenal substitute Coquelin clumsily took down Barnes and referee Moss pointed straight to the Penalty spot. Arsenal were incensed and manager Arsene Wenger would be sent off for taking his remonstrations with the officals too far, although upon viewing the replay the referee got the decision spot on. Lifelong Arsenal fan Andre Gray stepped up and hit a pretty unconvincing penalty down the middle and despite Cech getting a hand to it the ball nestled in the back of the Gunners net much to the delight of the Burnley players and their travelling support.
It seemed Arsenal had done an Arsenal and hit self destruct but there was still time for another twist. As Arsenal piled forward in search of a winner Sanchez chipped a beautiful ball to the back post and Mee stretched a boot at the ball as Koscienly attempted a header at goal , high foot and penalty to Arsenal said the referee and again after seeing the replay he had made the correct decision. Burnley will however have every right to feel aggreived as the replay also revealed that Koscielny had been offside as the cross came in , so it should have been a free out for the visitors before the penalty offence took place.
With the pressure on Alexi Sanchez stepped up and nonchalantly scored a perfectly executed paneka penalty to give the Gunners a vital victory. Burnley will feel hard done by having worked so hard to get back on level terms. Arsenal will be delighted with the 3 points and their jump from 2nd to 4th in the table especially having been down to 10 men for most of the second half. If the Gunners are to go on and challenge for the title they may well look back at these 3 points as being absolutely crucial.
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