WATCH: ‘Freak’ Robert Huth own goal keeps Arsenal in top-four hunt

A freak Robert Huth own goal kept Arsenal’s faint Champions League hopes alive as they scraped to victory against a dogged Leicester side.

WATCH: ‘Freak’ Robert Huth own goal keeps Arsenal in top-four hunt

Arsenal still seem likely to miss out on a top-four finish for the first time in Arsene Wenger’s two-decade reign in North London, but the luck is finally turning the Frenchman’s way when he needs it most.

They are now fifth and will be level on points with third-placed Liverpool if they can win their two games in hand on their Merseyside rivals.

They will probably need to win their remaining six games to pull off the feat, but it is no longer a mission impossible.

This match was settled when an 87th-minute hopeful shot from defender Nacho Monreal was inadvertently turned into the Leicester net by the otherwise outstanding Huth as the game seemed destined to drift to a goalless draw.

Wenger’s men have now won back-to-back Premier League games for the first time since January but seemed unable to build on the momentum of their unexpectedly decisive win overt Manchester City in the weekend’s FA Cup semi-final.

That victory assures them a place in the Europa League next season, but Thursday night football is the last thing the players and supporters of the north London club want for next season.

At least now they have a chance of ending the season with some sort of credit as Wenger also seems poised to extend his 21-year stay at the helm.

The match ended in bizarre circumstances with a series of bookings as referee Mike Jones lost control of the Leicester players trying to gain an edge back into the match and Arsenal tried to wind down the clock.

But, in the end, the best team won. And a win is a win.

Leicester had started so well when Marc Albrighton passed inside to Jamie Vardy who flashed a first-time shot into the side-netting.

Arsenal’s Francis Coquelin then had a shot tipped away for a corner by Kasper Schmeichel and Leicester were again in disarray when the ball was played back in.

Leicester fans tried to taunt the Arsenal manager with the now tired chant of ‘we want you to stay’ but were hit with a quick repose from the Gunners’ faithful in the Clock End, who chanted: ‘Arsene Wenger — he’s won more than you’.

Maybe the crowd are turning back to Wenger too now?

Midway through the first half, Riyad Mahrez had a shot superbly saved by Petr Cech from point-blank range. It was a great save from the former Chelsea keeper, but it also exposed the frailties of Arsenal’s defence despite the supposed resilience of Wenger’s new-look three-man backline.

Arsenal were still the better team, though, and Schmeichel was soon called into action again as he denied Walcott at his near post after some nifty footwork from the recalled striker created a decent chance from ten yards.

Central defender Gabriel flashed a header across the face of the Leicester goal from Ozil’s ensuing corner and it seemed to be a matter of time before Arsenal would break the deadlock.

Sanchez had a penalty appeal turned down by referee Mike Jones, who then booked Leicester’s Danny Simpson for a desperate foul.

Arsenal lacked confidence and decisiveness in attack, though, and began passing the ball around the Leicester penalty area instead of going for the jugular as half-time approached.

That said, Sanchez did thunder a right-foot shot against the crossbar moments before the break.

Although Arsenal were the better team, they had not really created enough to suggest they should be in front and the home crowd — quoted at a generous 59,829, but with many empty seats visible — began to grow frustrated as their team continued to show a lack of edge at the start of the second half.

Not that Leicester showed any attacking intent as the match between last season’s first and second placed teams continued without any real spark.

A Bellerin run nearly created a chance for Sanchez after another sustained spell of possession and Schmeichel did well to turn away a Xhaka shot with just over half an hour to go.

With Arsenal’s players struggling for ideas, Wenger sent on substitute striker Danny Welbeck for Kieran Gibbs as Arsenal reverted to four at the back with just over 20 minutes to go.

Leicester responded by sending on Shinji Okazaki for the below-par Leonardo Ulloa, but with little effect.

Further attacking changes from Arsenal came in the 75th minute with Olivier Giroud replacing an ineffective Walcott and Ramsey on for the highly efficient Francis Coquelin.

Giroud made an immediate impact in that he was raked down the back by Yohan Benalouane and the Leicester defender was fortunate to escape with a yellow card.

Then came the Arsenal goal and a series of incidents involving Sanchez and Huth which resulted in yellow cards for both players.

ARSENAL (3-4-2-1):

Cech 7; Gabriel 7, Koscielny 6, Monreal 6; Bellerin 6, Coquelin 7 (Ramsey 75, 5), Xhaka 7, Gibbs 7 (Welbeck 68, 6); Ozil 5, Sanchez 6; Walcott 5 (Giroud 75, ).

LEICESTER (4-4-2):

Schmeichel 8; Simpson 6, Benalouane 6 (Gray 90, 6), Huth 7, Fuchs 7; Mahrez 5, Ndidi 5, Drinkwater 6, Albrighton 6; Ulloa 5 (Okazaki 69, ), Vardy 5.


Mike Jones 4/10

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