Arsenal’s slim hopes of qualifying for the Champions League remain alive, following a slightly nervy 2-1 victory over relegation-threatened Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium on Monday evening. With both sides battling for their own causes, albeit at different ends of the table, this victory will be met by a huge sigh of relief by Arsene Wenger and co.
After a tightly contested opening 45 minutes, Alexis Sanchez gave the Gunners the lead with just moments remaining before half-time. The Chilean international’s beautifully placed free-kick gave stand-in Boro keeper little chance as it flew into the top corner of the hosts’ net. His 19th goal of the season giving the visitors an important lead at the half-way stage.
Nonetheless, Arsene Wenger’s side’s advantage would be short lived, with Alvaro Negredo equalising for Boro less than five minutes into the second period. Winning possession on the flank, Stewart Downing stood up a lovely cross, which his Spanish teammate dispatched with a superb improvised volley.
With the scores one-apiece, a well-worked move by Arsenal saw them re-establish their lead and secure all three points with 20 minutes left to play. Aaron Ramsey’s excellent control in Mesut Ozil’s path, following a dangerous cross from Sanchez, allowed the German midfielder to slot the ball into the bottom left-hand corner, past an outstretched Guzan.
For now, the Gunners have closed the gap between themselves and the top four to seven points (with a game in hand). Meanwhile, Boro see themselves deeply rooted in the perilous relegation zone, six points beyond safety. For Steve Agnew’s side, a return to the Championship seems inevitable come the end of the season.
In a hard-fought affair at the Riverside on Monday evening, who was your Man of the Match?
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