Daily Archives: February 16, 2015
Arsenal 2 (Giroud 27′, 29′) – Middlesbrough 0
With Blackburn’s resounding win over Stoke as well as Bradford City’s victory over Sunderland, the message was clear to all that lower division teams have become a force to be reckoned with at the FA Cup. Arsenal’s opponents arrived at the Emirates on the back of a comfortable victory over Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium, so Arsene Wenger knew that there was no room for complacency.
It was evident that Wenger was going to rest a couple of his key starters and it was no surprises when Wojciech Szczesny got the nod ahead of David Ospina. In defense, Calum Chambers, Kieran Gibbs and finally, Gabriel Paulista started with Mathieu Flamini replacing the Coq in the anchorman role. The attacking setup had a rather familiar look but I was quite surprised to see Alexis Sanchez start, despite his struggles on Tuesday.
Arsenal’s first meaningful attack from from a dead ball with Santi Cazorl using his left foot to swing in a free kick that was parried by Middlesbrough’s goalie. The midfielder’s ambidexterity is really puzzling I must confess. Arsenal continued to press with Cazorla locating Gibbs with a sumptuous pass in behind the defense but Gibbs’ cutback was easy pickings for the goalie. Cazorla found Gibbs again with another delightful ball but the fullback wasn’t in the same wavelength but that’s what you get when a fullback finds himself in a No. 9 position… Tell that to Jordi Alba.
Chambers launched an attack from the right and found Danny Welbeck that attmepted a neat back-heeled pass to Sanchez but Kenneth Omeruo was on hand to make a vital block. Welbeck threaded a perfectly cushioned pass to Olivier Giroud that wasted no time in sending a curler goalwards. The keeper’s parried effort fell kindly to Sanchez in a rather acute angle and his rebound hit the side netting.
Arsenal finally got the goal they deserved when Cazorla sent another awesome pass to Gibbs. The attacking fullback located Giroud with an inch-perfect drilled cross that was smashed home by the Frenchman. It was a goal that had ‘Arsenal’ written all over it.
While the fans basked in the euphoria of scoring a goal, Arsenal went two up when Giroud showed off his amazing technique to fire a first-timed volley into the net from a Sanchez corner. Trust me, it was heavenly stuff from Giroud. That was his seventh FA Cup goal in his last 11 FA Cup games.
Sanchez and Ozil conncected superbly witht the German maestro sending a through ball to the Chilean but the goalie showed good reactions to anticipate the ball before Sanchez could do any real damage. A defender mopped things up after the goalie spilled the ball. Middlesbrough’s first attempt, a rather tame one, came when Adomah let one rip from quite some distance and that turned out to be target practice for Szczesny.
Arsenal turned up the style with some intricate passing and after showing some reluctance to shoot initially, Flamini fired a shot that was blocked. The follow up fell to Welbeck but he fired his effort wide. Welbeck had another sniff at goal when Chambers teed up a chance for him but he lobbed his effort wide off the mark. Ozil showed quick movement to fashion a chance for himself that was saved and Gibbs had a blasted effort that was saved by Boro’s custodian in goal. The undisputed save of the game came when Alexis nodded in Cazorla’s dead ball at pointblank range and everyone at the Emirates were shocked to see how that ball didn’t go in.
Wenger brought on Tomas Rosicky and Theo Walcott for Alexis and Welbeck but another great chance fell to Cazorla after some brilliant passing play but he blasted his effort over the bar. Wenger decided that Giroud wasn’t going to get a chance to score his first Arsenal hat-trick when he replaced him with Chuba Akpom but the striker didn’t make much of an impact though. Arsenal’s last meaningful attack arrived when Rosicky sent a lovely pass in between two Boro defenders for Walcott and the Englishman fired a shot that was parried by the goalie. Late on, Kike nodded in a cross that clipped Szczesny’s post.
With seven victories recorded in the seven FA Cup games played so far, we will have to wait to see how the Preston vs. Manchester United game pans out. Let’s just hope for another favorable draw in the quarterfinals.
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