QPR vs Arsenal match report: Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez on the scoresheet for the Gunners

QPR 1 Arsenal 2

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The Independent Football

Arsenal played all night under the Loftus Road lights like a team in third gear, intimating all the while that if they could just slip in to fourth the match would be theirs’, but for some unquantifiable reason they either couldn’t or didn’t want to.

It was a fine move just after the hour mark that took them ahead. Six minutes later they had doubled their lead and a match in which Queen’s Park Rangers created their fair share of chances looked over as a contest.

Charlie Austin’s crashing strike with ten minutes to go pulled one back for QPR, and dragged the game to a tense finish, but it wasn’t to be.

Arsenal were the superior team after their two clever goals, one from Giroud the other from Alexis Sanchez, showing glimpses of the side that overpowered QPR at the Emirates on Boxing Day. That is moment from which their resurgence in the second half of the season can be measured, but which looked like it might have been wiped out in 90 insipid minutes against Monaco last week.

The early exchanges were flowing but ultimately low on penetration. A frustrated Austin crashed in a weak volley on twelve minutes, seeming to lacking any better options or ideas.

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He had a better luck not long later, chesting down a pass from wide and volleying goalward, but it found the Arsenal keeper David Ospina in the centre of the goal. His third attempt from range came on thirty six minutes and was the best of the lot. It swerved inwards all the way, but crossed the line just wide of the post.

A bending Matt Phillips effort from well outside the box provided Ospina’s sternest test in the first half. He saved easily but it was further indication that Arsenal, as they had been against Everton on Sunday, were there for the taking.

For the visitors, Sanchez threatened down the left, and Rosicky played with his typical intelligence, effectiveness and self-assurance. He, it is widely agreed, should have played more football this year.

As he ran on to a looping pass that cleared the box and shaped to volley, the stadium drew its breath, but he misfired.

 

Shortly before the break, Arsenal fans looked on concerned as new central defender Gabriel had to be replaced by Laurent Koscielny. The Brazilian was brought in from Valencia in January to address a strength in depth emergency. Arsenal need him.

Before the Monaco humiliation, Arsene Wenger had said Arsenal were a team on the rise. That there were over the worst of their injury crisis (they are always in injury crisis) and were in a position to move up a gear as the season drew to a close, rather than fade away as had been their modus operandi in recent times.

Certainly, one appalling result and display doesn’t change everything. They won against Everton without finding any sort of fluency at all. Last night they were better, but never did they look like a team capable of putting three past Monaco away from home, as their first leg defeat demands they must. There were glimpses, particularly from Rosicky, who showed that if anything would undo the QPR defence it would be pace, yet Walcott, Welbeck and Oxlade-Chamberlain all languished on the bench.

In front of the defence, and with a white mask over his broken nose, Francis Coquelin had arguably his finest game yet for Arsenal. It is clear he is now all but undroppable in Arsene Wenger’s eyes, and he played with the confidence of a man transformed by such a dramatic change in stature. He even impressed on his rare forays forward.

Sanchez showed more than occasional glimpses of the player he was when he arrived with such devastating impact last summer, especially in the second half. This league, he now knows, is more demanding than the rest, and his team has been dependent on him in a way Barcelona never were. If he is finding his early season form again, Arsenal could yet be a side transformed.

On paper, Queen’s Park Rangers still look to good to go down, but they have done since the start of the season - on paper. After tonight, their ten remaining games include Tottenham, Chelsea, Man City and Liverpool. They may very well win their fight for survival, but it will go to the wire.

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