Arsenal vs QPR match report: Amazing Alexis Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them

Arsenal 2 Queens Park Rangers 1: Tomas Rosicky scored a crucial second after Giroud was sent-off for a head-butt on Nedum Onouha

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The Independent Online

This was hardly a match Queen’s Park Rangers came to win, but they should have left the Emirates with their first away point of the season yesterday. However, they had a penalty turned down for a poor stoppage-time tackle – as well as failing to take advantage of the fact their opponents had been reduced to 10 men following Olivier Giroud’s idiotic red card.

No one appealed when Kieran Gibbs came in late on Bobby Zamora, but it was, as the QPR manager, Harry Redknapp, claimed, “a blatant penalty”.

In the end, it was yet another night that belonged to Arsenal’s new Chilean hero Alexis Sanchez, who missed a penalty, but still scored one goal and created another for an old favourite at the Emirates. It was Tomas Rosicky’s first start of the campaign, in this his ninth season at Arsenal. And when Sanchez danced his way towards the edge of the box midway through the second half and rolled it off to him he still had plenty to do, but he smacked the ball low past Robert Green.

Giroud’s earlier red card just after half-time had handed QPR a route back into a match Arsenal should have already killed off.

 

They will now have to travel to West Ham and Southampton – currently their chief rivals for the fourth Champions League place – over the next three days without the Frenchman, who will be suspended for three matches, a consequence of an entirely needless dismissal. Nedum Onuoha possibly should not have gone down as if headbutted, when Giroud held his forehead in his face after a clumsy collision, but the referee, Martin Atkinson, had no choice but to follow the law and send him off. It was indefensibly stupid.

“He headbutted him, didn’t he?” said Redknapp. “You’re not allowed to do that in football. If he nutted him he gets sent off. Silly thing to do.”

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Alexis Sanchez missed a penalty before scoring the opening goal with a header

The Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, agreed: “It was a deserved red card. He told me he was pushed from the back and projected into the keeper. Maybe because the injury he had plays on his mind, and he was scared to be injured again. It is unusual for him. He is usually calm in his mind.”

Wenger also confirmed Giroud had apologised afterwards. “Olivier Giroud knows he made a mistake and I know him well enough to think that he will not do it again,” he added.

Debuchy gave away a soft penalty with 11 minutes left, which Charlie Austin dispatched with an arrow-straight run-up. After that, QPR attacked with both dynamism and desperation in the final minutes, but it was not enough. “It wasn’t until it was 2-1 that we started to take the game to them. We weren’t positive enough,” added Redknapp. “You’ve got to come away with something. It was a good opportunity for us today against 10 men.”

In the first half, a sweeping move across the Arsenal midfield, down the left flank to Gibbs and into the QPR box ended on the forehead of Sanchez and into the visitors’ net eight minutes before the interval. Redknapp was right to call his side’s defending “atrocious” as Sanchez stood in the six-yard box without a defender within two yards  of him.

It took only seven minutes for Arsenal’s first glittering opportunity to arrive via the penalty spot, after a foul on Sanchez by Armand Traoré.

Remarkably, Sanchez stepped up to take the penalty, and appeared to prevent the usual taker Santi Cazorla from stepping up. Sanchez’s attempt was woeful, played with neither position nor pace, just a yard or two to Green’s right. He parried the shot out then gathered the ball up.

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Rosicky celebrates with Welbeck after scoring Arsenal's second

Only an upset would have made this a season-defining fixture for either side. Wenger ended the match no closer to sculpting some sort of identity from this talented but rather jumbled-up box of attacking tricks.

QPR have now lost all nine of their away fixtures this season. They host Crystal Palace tomorrow and Swansea on New Year’s Day. These are the matches that are far more likely to decide their fate.

The win carries Arsenal to the brink of fourth. This may be the scale of their league ambitions already, but this remains Arsenal’s strongest squad for several seasons. Should a new defender arrive in January, and should this be accompanied by a let-up from their injury misfortune, they may yet put a run of results together that could have Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea noticing a very troublesome new object in their rear-view mirror.

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