REPORT: Arsenal 1-0 Southampton
Alexis Sanchez scored a late winner to deny Southampton an impressive point on the road, as Arsenal won 1-0 at the Emirates on Wednesday night.
Boosted by their first win away to Arsenal in 27 years earlier this season in the Capital One Cup, Ronald Koeman’s side worked tirelessly to prevent the Gunners from finding a way through.
But after Toby Alderweireld came off through injury with Saints having made all of their substitutions, the Gunners found the late winner as Sanchez grabbed his 14th goal of the campaign.
It was harsh on Saints, and in particular goalkeeper Fraser Forster, who had produced an inspired display to keep Arsenal at bay until the closing stages.
With Morgan Schneiderlin injured in Sunday’s defeat to Manchester City, Koeman was grateful to have Jack Cork back available to make his 150th appearance for the club after illness at the weekend. Cork, along with Shane Long, who came in for Sadio Mané, were the two changes made by the Saints boss.
Of the three former Saints now at Arsenal, two were in their starting line-up as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Calum Chambers lined up down the right-hand side. The third former Saints man, Theo Walcott, missed out through injury.
The opening chance of the game fell the way of the hosts, as Santi Cazorla played a clever pass into the space for Danny Welbeck, but the former Manchester United man fired wide of the target.
Saints were well in the contest and fashioned a great chance of their own with 14 minutes on the clock. Graziano Pellè played a neat one-two with Steven Davis, but the striker blazed his volley over the bar from eight yards.
The host responded with a neat exchange of their own as Sanchez, Welbeck and Oxlade-Chamberlain all played clever passes before the latter saw a shot well held by Forster.
Cork’s 150th appearance came to an abrupt end with 15 minutes left of the first half as the midfielder was forced to make way due to injury. Maya Yoshida was the man to replace him, with Alderweireld pushing into midfield, just as he did during the second half on Sunday.
Despite the change, Saints coped well, but just before the break, they were thankful to Forster for making an excellent stop. Cazorla’s free-kick was flicked back towards his own goal by Alderweireld, but the England stopper was on hand to tip it over the crossbar.
Saints made a bright start to the second half and had two good chances inside the opening five minutes. First, Pellè saw an effort blocked by Laurent Koscielny, before Long blazed over after a quick counter-attack.
In search of the opener, Arsene Wenger sent Olivier Giround on in place of Oxlade-Chamberlain, and the Frenchman almost found the breakthrough immediately.
Sanchez clipped the ball over the top into his path, but the striker saw his effort pushed away by Forster.
Saints’ goalkeeper was back in the thick of the action moments later as this time he was forced to deny Welbeck after a neat ball into him from Giroud, before Fonte managed to prevent the latter from finishing the rebound.
Koeman made changes of his own, as Emmanuel Mayuka and Mané entered the fray, but with all changes made, Saints had to play the last ten minutes with ten men, after Alderweireld had to come off with an injury.
The home side pressed with the man advantage and Saints were thankful to Forster once again as he produced a fantastic stop to claw away Giroud’s looping header.
But Forster was finally beaten with just two minutes remaining, as Aaron Ramsey cut the ball back for an unmarked Sanchez to apply the finish and earn Arsenal all three points.
Arsenal: Emiliano Martinez, Calum Chambers, Per Mertesacker (c), Laurent Koscielny, Kieran Gibbs, Mathieu Flamini, Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla, Danny Welbeck (Lukas Podolski 82), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Olivier Giroud 64), Alexis Sanchez.
Unused substitutes: Matt Macey (GK), Yaya Sanogo, Hector Bellerin, Tomas Rosicky, Kieran Gibbs
Goals: Sanchez (88)
Southampton: Fraser Forster, Nathaniel Clyne, José Fonte (c), Toby Alderweireld, Ryan Bertrand, Jack Cork (Maya Yoshida 29), Victor Wanyama, Steven Davis, Dušan Tadić (Sadio Mané 61), Shane Long (Emmanuel Mayuka 81), Graziano Pellè.
Unused substitutes: Kelvin Davis (GK), Florin Gardos, Harrison Reed, Matt Targett.
Booked: Alderweireld (43), Wanyama (76)