Saturday 22 September 2018

Arsenal's timing spot on again as Sanchez hits last-gasp winner

Burnley 0 Arsenal 1

'Wenger could scarcely believe his luck.
'Wenger could scarcely believe his luck. "I don't know why he pushed him with two hands in the back," said Arsenal's manager.' Photo: Reuters

John Percy

It was all about timing for Arsenal in this game. After arriving at Turf Moor a mere 52 minutes before kick-off, after the team coach was stuck in traffic, they left it until the final seconds to secure a crucial, if barely deserved, victory.

Alexis Sanchez's penalty two minutes into added time ensured a second successive contentious win at Burnley as Arsene Wenger's side clambered back into the Premier League's top four.

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 26: James Tarkowski of Burnley fouls Aaron Ramsey of Arsenal which led to a penalty during the Premier League match between Burnley and Arsenal at Turf Moor on November 26, 2017 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)
BURNLEY, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 26: James Tarkowski of Burnley fouls Aaron Ramsey of Arsenal which led to a penalty during the Premier League match between Burnley and Arsenal at Turf Moor on November 26, 2017 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

Last season, it was Laurent Koscielny's controversial late winner, which appeared to be offside and handball, and this time it was James Tarkowski's push on Aaron Ramsey that dramatically swung the game towards Arsenal.

Though Tarkowski had both hands on the Arsenal midfielder, Ramsey did appear to exaggerate the contact, sparking anger among Burnley's players.

Sanchez was never going to waste the chance, so Burnley manager Sean Dyche saw a draw become the club's first home defeat since August. Burnley have still not beaten Arsenal in the league for 43 years.

This had all the ingredients for a Wenger nightmare. Freezing conditions, with a nearby mountain encrusted with snow, and frequent rain raised the inevitable question over whether Arsenal would fancy it on a Sunday afternoon in Burnley.

Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal celebrates his goal Photo: Jan Kruger/Getty Images
Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal celebrates his goal Photo: Jan Kruger/Getty Images

To make matters worse, Mesut Ozil was sent home from the team hotel in the morning because of illness.

It seemed as if the script was written for an Arsenal capitulation, until referee Lee Mason's late intervention.

Wenger could scarcely believe his luck. "I don't know why he pushed him with two hands in the back," said Arsenal's manager.

"It looked a clear penalty, but I can understand why they were disappointed. He (Ramsey) didn't throw himself on the ground, he wanted to go back and flick the ball. He was pushed in the back. He said it was a very strong push.

"After the win against Tottenham it was important to go away and win it and that's what we did. We kept a clean sheet when Burnley were really up for it. When you play them you can understand why they have 22 points."

Dyche did not complain about the decision, but hinted darkly that perceived "smaller" clubs such as Burnley never benefit from such controversial calls.

Burnley have already taken points off Chelsea, Spurs and Liverpool this season and for an hour it seemed as if they would add Arsenal to the list.

Those days of worrying about relegation seem a long time ago.

They started impressively here, without a long ball in sight, with Petr Cech pushing Johann Berg Gudmundsson's shot on to the post early on.

The Iceland attacker was involved in all of Burnley's threatening moments in an excellent first-half performance.

Arsenal did respond, with Nacho Monreal almost finding the corner from 20 yards, yet Burnley were always a threat and Cech was required again, producing a diving save to keep out Robbie Brady's free-kick just before half-time.

Arsenal could not find a way into the game and Sanchez was sometimes playing so deep, trying to link play, that he needed a snorkel.

Burnley centre-backs Ben Mee and Tarkowski will have given the watching England manager Gareth Southgate something to ponder.

Wenger sent on Jack Wilshere 23 minutes from the end in a bid to break Burnley's stranglehold on the game and the England midfielder almost made an impact.

With Burnley hesitant at the back for once, Wilshere took aim and his deflected shot arced wide with goalkeeper Nick Pope flat-footed.

But the game was turned on its head in injury time when Tarkowski, who had been excellent, bundled over Ramsey.

It appeared soft - the locals certainly thought so - and Sanchez completed the ultimate smash-and-grab raid. At least Dick Turpin had the decency to wear a mask.

Dyche said: "There is a lot of me inside that is raging a lot. It's a tough job for referees and it's not going to change. But I've got absolutely no complaints about the performance. There are signs of us continuing to move forward.

"Football is a harsh game and sometimes it hurts you." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

 

Telegraph.co.uk

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