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Lacazette strikes but emotional Cardiff stand tall for Sala

Arsenal 2 Cardiff 1

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Cardiff City fans in the stands with a banner reading 'Emiliano Forever in our hearts'. Photo: Nick Potts/PA

Cardiff City fans in the stands with a banner reading 'Emiliano Forever in our hearts'. Photo: Nick Potts/PA

PA

Cardiff City fans in the stands with a banner reading 'Emiliano Forever in our hearts'. Photo: Nick Potts/PA

They remained long after the final whistle, as the lights began to flicker and the rest of the stadium stood still. And then, after one final chant in honour of their missing forward, Emiliano Sala, Cardiff's travelling supporters wrapped their scarves back around their necks, folded away their banners and flags, and traipsed slowly towards the exits.

They had stayed to celebrate Nathaniel Mendez-Lang's late goal, to honour the courage of their players and manager and to pay their respects to the forward who was not there. At the sound of the full-time whistle, Cardiff's red-faced players did not disappear down the tunnel as they usually would after a cruel defeat in the biting cold.

Instead they solemnly applauded their supporters, Callum Paterson even climbing into the crowd, united in this particularly difficult shared grief.

There will be time for Cardiff to rue Mike Dean's woeful decision not to award Oumar Niasse a first-half penalty, after he was tripped by a lumbering Nacho Monreal. There will be time to rue Bruno Manga's moment of mindlessness later, when he sent Sead Kolasinac sprawling and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang rolled home the subsequent spot kick. And there will be time to rue the ease with which Alexandre Lacazette strolled through their defence to add a late second.

It was to prove decisive. Mendez-Liang's goal came far too late. Cardiff battled manfully throughout and probably deserved a point. But for last night at least, that seemed largely irrelevant.

An Arsenal team pressing hard for fourth could not afford to spare Cardiff any sentimentality.

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Arsenal's Sead Kolasinac is unable to convert a chance from close rnage. Photo: REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

Arsenal's Sead Kolasinac is unable to convert a chance from close rnage. Photo: REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

REUTERS

Mesut Ozil, returning to Arsenal's starting line up, made his first telling contribution before even touching the ball: his exquisite dummy helping to set up Lacazette, whose fierce shot was blocked. Dean then waved away Cardiff's penalty appeals as Niasse tripped over Monreal's leg before ignoring Arsenal's appeals down the other end, after Manga had dived in rashly on Lacazette. Two terrible decisions in two minutes.

Fittingly enough, it took a penalty to open the scoring. Midway through the second-half, as Kolasinac who was hacked down by the hapless Manga. Aubameyang was on hand to nervelessly roll the ball into the left corner.

Late on, Lacazette made sure of the win with a fine individual goal. This time Sol Bamba was the defender at fault, jumping in to dispossess Lacazette on the touchline only to fail to win the ball. Up popped the Frenchman, who waltzed through Cardiff's defence before drilling one into the far corner. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent


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