Ozil proves worth as Arse­nal go top

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

LON­DON: Me­sut Ozil pro­vided a timely re­minder of his im­por­tance to Arse­nal’s ti­tle hopes with a su­perb header in a 3-1 win against Stoke that moved the Gun­ners to the top of the Pre­mier League yes­ter­day.

The fu­tures of Ozil and Alexis Sanchez re­main un­cer­tain with the Arse­nal duo en­ter­ing the fi­nal 18 months of their cur­rent deals.

But both were cen­tral fig­ures as Arsene Wenger’s team se­cured the two-goal margin of vic­tory that lifted them above Chelsea on goals scored.

Ozil’s stun­ning sec­ond-half header, a goal that came about in con­tro­ver­sial cir­cum­stances in the eyes of Stoke man­ager Mark Hughes, was the high­light of the win.

Arse­nal had fallen be­hind to Charlie Adam’s 23rd-minute penalty but lev­elled be­fore half-time thanks to Theo Wal­cott’s 10th goal of the sea­son.

Ozil and Alex Iwobi struck af­ter the break to shift the pres­sure onto Chelsea 24 hours be­fore An­to­nio Conte’s side host West Bromwich Al­bion.

Wenger had com­plained an­grily about ref­eree Lee Ma­son’s de­ci­sion to award a penalty af­ter Stoke’s Joe Allen was floored by a lead­ing el­bow from Granit Xhaka.

But it was Hughes’ turn to com­plain when Ozil scored in space va­cated by Stoke left­back Erik Pi­eters, who was out of po­si­tion af­ter re­ceiv­ing treat­ment at the other end of the pitch. Arse­nal had started the game pos­i­tively, find­ing plenty of room down the right hand flank. But for the most part, Stoke man­aged to re­strict the home side to the oc­ca­sional half-chance be­fore they took the lead through Adam’s penalty.

Shortly be­fore the Scot­land international gave the vis­i­tors the lead, the mid­fielder had shown his qual­ity with a lofted ball that al­lowed Marko Ar­nau­tovic to set up an op­por­tu­nity that Allen sent wide.

And Adam showed im­pres­sive com­po­sure to send Cech the wrong way from the spot af­ter Allen had been floored by Xhaka in a clumsy chal­lenge be­tween the pair.

VUL­NER­A­BLE

Arse­nal’s prob­lems in­creased when Shko­dran Mustafi was forced off with what ap­peared to be a ham­string in­jury and the in­tro­duc­tion of Hec­tor Bel­lerin prompted a reshuf­fle of the home back-four.

But the sub­sti­tute’s most sig­nif­i­cant first half con­tri­bu­tion came at the other end of the pitch when he pro­duced the cross that led to Wal­cott’s 42nd-minute equaliser.

Stoke had con­tin­ued to ap­pear vul­ner­a­ble on their left hand side, with Allen pro­vid­ing only lim­ited cover for Pi­eters.

The left-back was iso­lated once again when the ball was played out to Bel­lerin from a cen­tral po­si­tion and the Spa­niard drilled in a low cross that was turned home by Wal­cott at the near post.

The goal brought re­lief for Wenger and his play­ers who had been grow­ing in­creas­ingly frus­trated in their ef­forts to can­cel out the con­tro­ver­sial open­ing goal.

But it was soon the vis­i­tors’ turn to feel hard done to when they fell be­hind to Ozil’s clever, loop­ing header.

Mo­ments be­fore, Stoke had pressed for­ward with Pi­eters re­quir­ing treat­ment af­ter clash­ing with Bel­lerin as he went for a far post header and the left-back had not re­cov­ered his ground when Alex Oxlade-Cham­ber­lain picked out Ozil with a floated pass.

There was no doubt­ing the qual­ity of the Ger­many international’s fin­ish but the play­maker was helped by Pi­eters’ ab­sence.

While Stoke fumed, Arse­nal con­tin­ued to press with Xhaka and Oxlade-Cham­ber­lain both test­ing Grant with long-range shots.

But Arse­nal were un­likely to squan­der the lead and fi­nally es­tab­lished the twogoal ad­van­tage they needed to go top when Iwobi picked up the loose ball af­ter Sanchez had been fouled on the edge of the Stoke area. — AFP

LON­DON: Arse­nal's Ger­man mid­fielder Me­sut Ozil (L) runs for the ball with Stoke City's Por­tuguese-born Dutch de­fender Bruno Martins Indi dur­ing the English Pre­mier League foot­ball match be­tween Arse­nal and Stoke City at the Emi­rates Sta­dium in Lon­don yes­ter­day . — AFP

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