ALEXIS SANCHEZ kept Arsenal’s Champions League dream alive as his late double eventually downed stubborn Sunderland 2-0 at the Emirates.
The Chilean proved to be the hero once again for Arsene Wenger’s men as they ensured their fight with Liverpool for fourth-spot will go to the final day.
The home side completely dominated the opening period and thought they had took the lead inside ten minutes.
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Alexis Sanchez rifled the ball into the net from distance, but the strike was ruled out after Olivier Giroud was penalised for getting his hand in the way as he lurched inside the area.
Jordan Pickford then produced a super stop to deny the Frenchman before he managed to slide the ball away from the feet of Aaron Ramsey after a superb run from Sanchez.
It was one-way traffic as Pickford was called into action again to Granit Xhaka before Ramsey and Hector Bellerin both hit the side-netting.
Petr Cech was called into action too in a rare Sunderland attack before the break, parrying Jermaine Defoe’s shot away from goal as the half ended goalless.
Arsenal almost made a calamitous start to the second period as Nacho Monreal made a ridiculous backpass to Cech without looking.
And the ball was heading straight for the empty net before Cech was able to scramble back to palm it wide.
Tensions were starting to mount in North London as the already-relegated Black Cats proved a tough nut to crack… but Arsenal’s talisman was ready to save the day.
With 18 minutes left onthe clock, Xhake found Mesut Ozil on the left, and the German side-footed the ball into the path of Sanchez to tap home.
And it got better just under ten minutes later as he doubled the advantage after Pickford had denied Xhaka and Danny Welbeck.
The only blow for the Gunners came midway through the second period as Aaron Ramsey limped off with a suspected hamstring strain – which could potentially rule him out of the FA Cup Final.
FACTS, STATS, GOALS & LOLS
- LAURENT KOSCIELNY missed out with injury having admitted before kick off that he has chronic Achilles problems which will require daily treatment for the rest of his career.
- THERE were large empty areas at the Emirates Stadium as the game got underway. There was talk of a boycott but it looked like more of a ‘can’t be bothered’.
- SUNDERLAND’s fans – and the away end wasn’t full either – taunted Arsenal supporters with a chant of ‘Champions League? You’re Having A Laugh’ to mock The Gunners’ desperate scramble for a top four place.
Arsenal fans protest by not turning up to home match against Sunderland
- JORDAN PICKFORD make a superb save from Aaron Ramsey just as news filtered through that Man City have taken the lead against West Brom – dealing Arsenal’s Champions League hopes a further blow.
- RAY PARLOUR featured in the programme about life when he was ten years old and admits he had no time for girlfriends because he was playing football every day. He was also a West Ham fan until he signed for Arsenal a year later.
Alexis Sanchez saves Arsenal again with a brace against Sunderland
- NACHO MONREAL made a horrendous error with a back pass to Petr Cech early in the second half. It would have gone down as one of the worst own goals ever.
- AARON RAMSEY was forced off in the 69th minute with what looks like a hamstring problem. Danny Welbeck replaced him – but the Welsh star could be a doubt for the FA Cup Final.
- THERE was relief all-around as Alexis Sanchez finally made the breakthrough.
- AND everyone could breathe easier as he made certain of the victory inside the final ten minutes.
Sun May 21 – Everton (H) – PL
Sat May 27 – Chelsea (N) – FA Cup Final
Sun May 21 – Chelsea (A) – PL
DREAM TEAM RATINGS
Arsenal: Cech 7, Holding 7, Mustafi 7, Monreal 7, Bellerin 7, Ramsey 7 (Welbeck 69, 6), Xhaka 7, Gibbs 6 (Iwobi 69, 6), Ozil 9, Sanchez 8 , Giroud 7 (Walcott 85, 6)
Subs not used: Gabriel, Ospina, Coquelin, Elneny
Sunderland: Pickford 9, Jones 6, O’Shea 6, Kone 6, Manquillo 6 (Januzaj 82, 6), Ndong 6 (Gibson 88, 6), Cattermole 6 (Gooch 77, 5), Larsson 6, Oviedo 6, Borini 6, Defoe 6
Subs not used: Mannone, Rodwell, Lescott, Love
DREAM TEAM STAR MAN: Mesut Ozil
WHAT THEY SAID
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger: “It was a game we absolutely had to win. We needed to be patient as we played Sunday, Wednesday, Saturday and Tuesday.
“We have 72 points and we have to focus to get to 75.
“That was not likely a few weeks ago.”