Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

English Premiership

Sanchez keeps Arsenal in top-four hunt

Arsenal’s striker Olivier Giroud (3R) sends the ball across to Arsenal’s striker Alexis Sanchez to score the second goal during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Sunderland at the Emirates Stadium in London on May 16, 2017 © AFP / Adrian DENNIS

LONDON, United Kingdom, May 16 – Alexis Sanchez kept alive Arsenal’s fading hopes of qualifying for the Champions League as the Chilean broke Sunderland’s stubborn resistance to seal a crucial 2-0 win on Tuesday.

Arsene Wenger’s side were struggling to see off relegated Sunderland until Sanchez came to the rescue with two goals deep into the second half at the Emirates Stadium.

Despite refusing to sign a new contract, Sanchez remains the only Arsenal player consistently performing at a world-class standard and the former Barcelona forward, playing despite a recent thigh injury, is the sole reason they still have a faint chance of a top-four finish.

In reality, the fifth-placed Gunners need a miracle to qualify for the Champions League for a 20th successive season.

Arsenal’s sixth win in their last seven games moved them within one point of fourth-placed Liverpool, but there was bad news from Eastlands where Manchester City beat West Bromwich Albion to retain their three-point lead over Wenger’s team.

Arsenal host Everton on Sunday, while Liverpool entertain relegated Middlesbrough and third-placed City travel to Watford.

If Liverpool win and City avoid defeat, Arsenal will miss out on the Champions League for the first time in two decades, even if they end the season with a victory.

Wenger’s approval ratings are at an all-time low with Arsenal’s disenchanted supporters and it will be fascinating to see if he decides to stay if the top four proves beyond reach.

Wenger had urged fans not to boycott the Sunderland fixture in their latest protest against the Gunners boss, but when the Frenchman emerged from the tunnel before kick-off he was greeted with swathes of empty red seats around the Emirates.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

Arsenal’s striker Olivier Giroud controls the ball during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Sunderland at the Emirates Stadium in London on May 16, 2017 © AFP / Adrian DENNIS

Sanchez thought he’d given Arsenal an early lead when his 20-yard strike flashed past Sunderland goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, only for a linesman’s flag to curtail his celebrations.

Olivier Giroud was the culprit after flicking the ball goalwards with his arm, and the Arsenal striker wasted a chance to redeem himself moments later when his close-range effort was pushed away by Pickford.

Wenger moaned this week that Arsenal’s top-four rivals were benefiting from playing teams with their minds already on their holidays, ignoring the fact the Gunners enjoyed victories over a Manchester United side more concerned with the Europa League final and a Stoke team with nothing to play for.

Sunderland, losers in nine of their last 12 games and relegated last month, were hardly a step up in class.

– Lead balloon –

Yet Arsenal didn’t find it easy to kill them off.

A sharp stop from Pickford prevented Aaron Ramsey converting Mesut Ozil’s pass, while Hector Bellerin curled just over before Granit Xhaka’s strike skidded wide.

Sunderland’s midfielder Lee Cattermole (L) vies with Arsenal’s midfielder Aaron Ramsey during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Sunderland at the Emirates Stadium in London on May 16, 2017 © AFP / Adrian DENNIS

Never totally convincing at the back, Arsenal were almost breached against the run of play when Didier N’Dong tested Petr Cech, who then had to save from Jermain Defoe.

That sparked another flurry of Arsenal pressure, but both Bellerin and Ramsey shot into the side-netting, while Rob Holding headed straight at Pickford.

News of City’s goals against West Brom went down like a lead balloon at half-time and Nacho Monreal almost deepened Arsenal’s gloom with a comically miscued backpass that had Cech scrambling to keep it out.

That foreshadowed a nervous period for Arsenal, who looked short of ideas in the final third, and after Giroud glanced a header wide, Wenger sent on Danny Welbeck and Alex Iwobi.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

When the breakthrough finally arrived in the 72nd minute, inevitably it was Sanchez who saved the day, tapping in from virtually on the line after Ozil’s pass had unhinged the Sunderland defender.

Sanchez wasn’t finished yet and he doubled Arsenal’s lead with a close-range header from Giroud’s flick eight minutes later.

Whether it will be enough to save Arsenal’s dispiriting season remains to be seen.


More on Capital Sports


NAIROBI, Kenya, May 25 – There is light at the end of the tunnel. After failed promises over the last three years since its...


NAIROBI, Kenya, June 8 – Olympic Champion Caster Semenya and wife Violet Raseboya have hinted that they might be expecting a baby in a...


NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 13 – Kenya’s history making Daniel Adongo, the first Kenyan to play in America’s National Football League (NFL), is now living...


NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 15 – Daniel Wanjiru, the 2017 London Marathon champion has been slapped with a four-year ban by the World Athletics Disciplinary...

© 2020 Capital Digital Media. Capital Group Limited. All Rights Reserved