It was a typical Sunday afternoon for Arsenal fans at the Emirates, put through the wringer emotionally by the side they love, and rescued right at the death by Chilean superstar Alexis Sanchez, who despite missing 3 of his last 4 penalties showed the calmness and petulance that one has come to expect with greatness as he stroked home the winner for the home team in the 98th minute of the game.
The opening hour of the match is exactly what one has come to expect from Arsenal over the years, dominate the contest but struggle to break down a well oiled defence at home.
Then the breakthrough eventually arrived with the Gunners’ 19th shot of the game, a Shkodran Mustafi glancing header deflected into the far corner from fellow German international Mesut Ozil’s inch perfect corner, the Arsenal centre back rising between three markers and getting a good enough contact to beat Tom Heaton.
Then Arsenal conspired to throw it all away, Granit Xhaka lunging in two footed on Steven Defour, and rightly shown a straight red, for the ninth time in the last three years.
Arsenal held on with 10-men rather comfortably for large periods, and substitutes Danny Welbeck and Francis Coquelin came close to nicking a late goal that would have killed the game.
However, as always there was a twist in the tale as Ashley Barnes fell over Coquelin’s trailing leg inside the box, earning the visitors an unlikely penalty. It was a 50-50 decision that could have gone either way. Andre Gray, a boyhood Arsenal fan, drilled home the resulting spotkick, with Petr Cech beaten from the spot once again this season. Mind you, he did get a touch on it, so maybe he’ll finally save one!
All this while, Arsene Wenger was also thrown out from the game, having gone too far with his protests, the Frenchman like most Arsenal fans, clearly incensed by the decision to award Burnley the penalty.
Arsenal though refused to give up and with 4 minutes of injury time still to be played due to an injury to Dean Marney, raced forward in search of a winner.
They earned a late corner, which after being played shot was eventually tossed into the mix by Alexis Sanchez, a perfect ball to attack, which Laurent Koscielny got his head on, and was instantly also met by the foot of Ben Mee, flush in the face.
There was a hint of offside about the ball, but the high boot earned Arsenal a penalty of their own. Sanchez, hardly the ideal choice to take a penalty after having missed three recently, cheekily chipped it straight down the middle to win the game for Arsenal, and keep the Gunners’ title ambitions still alive.
The win takes Arsenal back up to second place in the Premier League standings, 5 points shy of Chelsea, who are at home to Hull City in this weekend’s final game. The Gunners now lead local rivals Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and Manchester City by 1, 2 and 4 points respectively.
Arsenal will be away to Southampton in the FA Cup next weekend, before Watford come visiting in midweek ahead of the Gunners visit to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea on the 4th of February.
Arsenal: Cech, Gabriel, Monreal, Koscielny, Mustafi, Xhaka (sent off 65′), Ramsey, Ozil (Bellerin 89′), Iwobi (Coquelin 69′), Sanchez, Giroud (Welbeck 87′)
Subs: Ospina, Bellerin, Gibbs, Coquelin, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Welbeck, Perez
Burnley: Heaton, Lowton, Keane, Mee, Ward, Boyd, Marney (Tarkowski 76′), Defour (Vokes 77′), Hendrick (Barton 73′), Barnes, Gray.
Subs: Robinson, Flanagan, Vokes, Kightly, Barton, Darikwa, Tarkowski.
Final Score: Arsenal 2-1 Burnley (Mustafi 59′, Gray pen 90+3′, Sanchez pen 90+8′)