Sublime Sanchez the hero again

Arsenal 2 QPR 1

Sublime Sanchez the hero again

Certainly, there have been few more ridiculous acts in this stadium than the headbutt on Nedum Onuoha that saw Giroud sent-off shortly after half-time in what should have been a regulation Arsenal victory.

It changed the course of the game, ensuring Arsenal had to spend the last few minutes grimly hanging on before securing Arsene Wenger’s 400th Premier League win and 600th overall as the club’s manager.

And there may not have been a player quite as sublime as Sanchez to play in this arena since it opened in 2006.

On St Stephen’s Day last year, the 26-year-old returned to his hometown of Tocopila, in Chile, to hand out presents. He was greeted as a hero.

Yesterday he was in the swirling sleet as he played his first ever game over the Christmas period. He won and then missed a penalty. He scored the first goal and set up the second. He was, again, hailed as a hero.

It must have been a strange year for the Chilean, one that has seen him just miss out on winning La Liga with Barcelona, take his national side to the last 16 of the World Cup and now move to Arsenal and England.

All the signs are that he can take everything in his stride. This will be the first time he has not had a winter break and he already looks a little fatigued, but Arsenal need him at his best.

That Wenger will not be able to rest him due to Giroud’s stupidity is unlikely to please the Arsenal manager.

“Olivier knows he made a mistake and I know him well enough to think he will not do it again,” said Wenger, who revealed the striker apologised to his team-mates in the dressing room post-match.

“He didn’t kill him but he touched him and he should not have done it. It was a deserved red card. It is unusual for him. Usually he is in control of his response.

“As for the 400 wins, it was tougher today (than the first one). The next 400 will be more difficult.”

As for QPR, their manager Harry Redknapp could take some solace from a battling performance although he later bemoaned “atrocious” defending.

Despite being second-best throughout, Rangers could have snatched their first away point of the season when Charlie Austin’s penalty made it 2-1 with 12 minutes to go.

“It was a blatant penalty, Bobby is in the dressing room and can’t believe he didn’t get it,” said Redknapp of the challenge on Zamora.

“You have to come away with something. It was a really good opportunity with them having 10 men to pick up a point here.”

The first surprise came with the announcement of the teams and the news that Harry Redknapp had switched to a 3-5-2, with Rio Ferdinand brought back for his first appearance since Oct 5.

The visitors immediately looked flaky at the back and should have been behind after eight minutes as Armand Traore launched into a ludicrous slide tackle on Alexis Sanchez. Santi Cazorla has taken and scored Arsenal’s last two penalties but Sanchez took the responsibility on here, but fluffed his lines, firing in a tame effort that Rob Green saved with ease.

He redeemed himself eight minutes before half-time. Again Traore was badly at fault, neglecting to pick up Sanchez at any point as Kieran Gibbs made his way down the left. When the full-back delivered his cross the Chilean was unmarked inside the area and planted his header beyond Green for his 15th of the season.

Steven Caulker headed narrowly wide shortly afterwards but all seemed plain sailing. Then Giroud was pushed by Onuoha into the onrushing Green and the forward reacted furiously, immediately receiving his marching orders from Martin Atkinson.

QPR decided to attack and were immediately picked off, Sanchez racing through to set up Rosicky as the Czech scored on his first Premier League start of the season.

All seemed simple, but then Atkinson decided Mathieu Debuchy had brought down Junior Hoilett despite the Frenchman getting a touch on the ball. Austin rammed home the penalty and could have been awarded a late second when Gibbs appeared to bring down Bobby Zamora.

But it wasn’t given, and Arsenal could focus on the sublime rather than the ridiculous.

ARSENAL: Szczesny 7, Debuchy 7, Mertesacker 7, Monreal 7, Gibbs 7, Flamini 7, Rosicky 8 (Chambers, 83; 6), Cazorla 6, Welbeck 6 (Coquelin, 88; 6), Sanchez 9, Giroud 3.

QPR: Green 7, Onuoha 7, Ferdinand 7, Caulker 6, Isla 6, Traore 4 (Hoilett, 62; 7), Mutch 6 (Zamora, 71; 7), Henry 5 (Fer, 62; 7), Kranjcar 6, Vargas 6, Austin 6.

Referee: Martin Atkinson.

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