Monday 23 January 2017

Alexis Sánchez Scores Dramatic Goal Which Brings Vicotory Over Burnley

Alexis Sánchez

With the pack chasing Chelsea dropping points all around them this weekend, a win – any win, even a boring, routine, nothing remarkable win – would have been welcomed by Arsenal. But a victory of this theatrically charged fashion sent the Emirates crowd into a rare frenzy. Humdrum, run of the mill, this was not.

Much of the most captivating drama was condensed into the seven and a bit minutes of stoppage time. Until then Arsenal had been leading Burnley, protecting a narrow lead with 10 men after Granit Xhaka’s sending off. The mood lurched one way as Burnley were awarded a penalty. Petr Cech made contact with his hand but not strongly enough as Ashley Barnes equalised. Burnley’s players were overjoyed. Arsenal’s felt the fear.

Arsène Wenger was sent from the dugout for letting his emotions out on the fourth official.

Extraordinarily, the mood lurched again in the final seconds as Ben Mee caught Laurent Koscielny in the face with a high foot. Another penalty. Now it was Burnley’s turn to dread the game being snatched from them, and their reaction was intensified by complaints that the Arsenal defender was in an offside position when Mee caught him.

Alexis Sánchez took the responsibility with a flourish as he dinked the ball straight down the middle. Once the dust had settled, at the end of it all, while Burnley were entitled to feel deeply disappointed Arsenal showed the character to take on some adversity and come out of it sitting second in the Premier League. Sean Dyche generously recognised that. “Credit to them they didn’t stop either. They kept coming with 10 men.”

Naturally he was galled to see a precious point on the road, something Burnley have found difficult to come by, disappearing in such difficult circumstances. But Dyche is very much from the school that whatever doesn’t break you makes you stronger. “You get a dent but you don’t get broke,” he said.

Burnley put a great deal of effort into the game. Once they settled down after a flurry of early chances for Arsenal they found a more resilient structure and were able to threaten on the counter-attack.

For all the glitz of Aaron Ramsey’s rabona cross, Olivier Giroud’s attempted overhead or Mesut Özil’s deft flick, Burnley kept diligently picking up the pieces, and the readiness of Andre Gray and Barnes to spring forward kept Arsenal on their toes. Just before half-time Cech had to come out bravely to be first in a race with Gray to get to George Boyd’s teasing cross.

Arsenal tested Burnley, with Sánchez the chief danger man, and their resistance was broken from a set piece, as Shkodran Mustafi expertly steered Özil’s corner at the inside netting of the far post. It was a fine header – the German’s first goal for the club since signing last summer from Valencia.

A relatively comfortable situation suddenly became awkward when Xhaka was sent off in the 64th minute for a clumsy tackle on Steven Defour. Having lost the ball the Swiss midfielder tried to win it back but the challenge was late and with feet off the ground. Xhaka will be banned for four games, having already been sent off this season (by the same referee, Jon Moss, incidentally) against Swansea City in October.

Wenger’s patience with Xhaka wore noticeably thin. “He has to control his game and not punish the team with a lack of control in his tackling,” he said afterwards.

With the extra body Burnley stepped up a gear. Defour tested Cech with a free kick. Dean Marney raised the temperature with a hefty scissor challenge to stop Özil on the break. Sánchez was back in his own box making emergency clearances. On came Joey Barton and Sam Vokes to try to turn the screw.

Arsenal found respite and Francis Coquelin and Danny Welbeck threatened the killer second just before the end of regulation time, before the helter-skelter dramatics took over as the 90 minutes ticked into overtime.

When Coquelin chopped at Barnes and a penalty was awarded, Wenger’s outburst ensured it would not only be Xhaka who would feel ashamed at the end of it all. The manager later expressed his remorse after being sent from the touchline for a verbal exchange with fourth official Anthony Taylor. “I regret everything. I should have shut up, gone in and go home. I apologise for that.”

Wenger was in the bowels of the Emirates when the drama twisted again as Moss gave a penalty Arsenal’s way. “We had to work really hard to get something and we get back in it. You can’t believe the decision,” lamented Dyche. Sánchez delivered the game’s final devastating swipe from the spot.

A cool penalty? “Too cool,” said Wenger. “Sánchez missed penalties for us. In fact he was not the first penalty-taker for us today, it was Giroud. He was second. But as long as you score you just say well done. It was an intense game, an unlikely win.”

Not for the first time this season Wenger has watched his team grab late points. Bad for the heart, not so bad for the league table.



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