Bat­tling Boro deny Wenger birth­day win

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Arse­nal went top of the Premier League, for a few hours at least, but their seven-game win­ning run came to an end as Mid­dles­brough se­cured a goal­less draw at the Emi­rates Sta­dium yes­ter­day.

The North Lon­don side have gone above Manch­ester City, who play on Sun­day, but could yet be leapfrogged by Liver­pool, who face West Bromwich Al­bion in Satur­day’s late kick-off. But the Gun­ners were a touch for­tu­nate to gain even a point in a match where vis­i­tors Mid­dles­brough had ar­guably the bet­ter chances, es­pe­cially in the first half, and Arse­nal were in­debted to the per­for­mance of goal­keeper Petr Cech. Arsene Wenger’s side had a rare off day in front of goal as the Arse­nal man­ager suf­fered dis­ap­point­ment on his 67th birth­day. Arse­nal were with­out two mid­field­ers in Granit Xhaka (sus­pen­sion) and Santi Cazorla (in­jury) so Fran­cis Co­quelin and Mo­hamed El­neny both started.

Mid­dles­brough looked set up to de­fend and it ap­peared as if it would be a dif­fi­cult match for them early on as Arse­nal dom­i­nated, with the north­east side strug­gling to get out of their own half. Me­sut Ozil, who had scored a hat-trick in Arse­nal’s 6-0 Cham­pi­ons League vic­tory over Lu­do­gorets on Wed­nes­day, shot just over with a free kick be­fore El­neny’s long-range drive nar­rowly cleared the cross­bar.

But from nowhere, Mid­dles­brough should have taken the lead as Adama Traore’s pace helped him get the bet­ter of Lau­rent Ko­scielny and go one-on-one with Cech. The Arse­nal keeper bril­liantly saved be­fore Al­varo Ne­gredo some­how missed the re­bound.

Within sec­onds, Gas­ton Ramirez hit the bar with a free kick as Arse­nal en­joyed an­other let-off. Wenger’s side went close with a free-kick of their own as Vic­tor Valdes saved well to keep out Alexis Sanchez’s ef­fort. Mid­dles­brough, how­ever, con­tin­ued to cre­ate chances with Cech’s ac­ro­bat­ics deny­ing Ramirez from Ne­gredo’s de­flected header on.

WAL­COTT CHANCE

Arse­nal still could have been ahead at the break but Ozil could not quite reach a Theo Wal­cott cross. Wenger’s side had a chance to take the lead mo­ments af­ter the restart as Valdes dropped the ball straight at Wal­cott’s feet, but Ben Gib­son was able to clear.

Sanchez then shot wide with an­other free-kick from 25 yards out while the Chilean was also de­nied by a fab­u­lous Valdes one-handed save fol­low­ing his pow­er­ful shot on the edge of the penalty area.

At the other end, the pace of Traore con­tin­ued to cause prob­lems and the for­mer As­ton Villa for­ward was de­nied by an­other Cech stop af­ter he had got the bet­ter of Ko­scielny.

Shko­dran Mustafi was for­tu­nate to stay on the pitch when, af­ter giv­ing the ball away, he hauled down Ramirez but ref­eree Mike Dean made do with just a yel­low card.

Arse­nal fans were get­ting frus­trated but their side con­tin­ued to cre­ate chances with Wal­cott feed­ing Sanchez who shot straight at the keeper.

Wenger then took off a dis­ap­point­ing Alex Iwobi and brought on Lu­cas Perez in his place, while Alex Oxlade-Cham­ber­lain came on for El­neny. But the changes ap­peared to make lit­tle dif­fer­ence as Boro con­tin­ued to de­fend solidly, with Sanchez un­able to reach an Ozil cross from the right.

Wal­cott could only shoot straight at Valdes af­ter link­ing up well with Perez down the right and then headed straight at the vis­it­ing keeper from an­other Ozil de­liv­ery.

Mid­dles­brough might have won it late on but it took a bril­liant sav­ing chal­lenge from Ko­scielny to foil Ne­gredo, who ap­peared to have bro­ken clear. Arse­nal’s dis­ap­point­ing day was com­pleted deep into stop­page time as Oxlade-Cham­ber­lain’s cross was turned into Mid­dles­brough’s goal by Ozil only for an off­side flag to cut short the Gun­ners’ cel­e­bra­tions. — AFP

LON­DON: Arse­nal’s Chilean striker Alexis Sanchez (R) fails to make a header in front of Mid­dles­brough’s Span­ish goal­keeper Vic­tor Valdes (L) dur­ing the English Premier League foot­ball match be­tween Arse­nal and Mid­dles­brough at the Emi­rates Sta­dium in Lon­don yes­ter­day. — AFP

LON­DON:

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