Gritty Gunners earn crucial win over Manchester United
Arsenal snapping at Tottenham's heels with eight games to go
10 March, 2019 — By Tom Foot
Aubameyang scores penalty after Wembley bungle
ARSENAL 2 (Xhaka 17, Aubameyang pen 70)
MAN UNITED 0
UNAI Emery’s gritty Gunners burst the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer bubble and took three crucial points at the Emirates.
A swirling Granit Xhaka strike and a penalty from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang ended the resurgent Manchester United’s no-lose league run since Jose Mourinho was sacked.
The unexpected win put Arsenal just one point behind jittery Spurs, two clear of United and four ahead of Chelsea with eight games to go.
The Gunners arguably have the easier run-in of the four teams chasing third and fourth spot – but Emery called for “calm”.
He said: “We are taking a good balance in our minds. Now after this victory we can be positive. It is going to be difficult.”
The match was a bad tempered and scrappy affair with lots or stoppages and arguing between players. The officials and referee Jonathan Moss made the home crowd furious, almost continuously, with a string of debatable decisions.
But after countless contested whistles, he awarded the softest of soft penalties on 70 minutes to Arsenal. Fred and Alexandre Lacazette brushed up against each other and Moss pointed to the spot. It was a kind of divine justice after United’s VAR outrage against PSG. Aubameyang, nerves jangling after his miss against Spurs, scuffed his shot but De Gea had already dived the wrong way.
Emery admitted the penalty was “soft”, adding: “We have different players here who can shoot penalty. Aubameyang is a specialist. Lacazette can also shoot.”
Xhaka had scored on 14 minutes with a shot that dipped and swerved in the wind, wrong-footing de Gea.
The respected goalkeeper seemed to fall over as the ball bent away to his right, going in down the middle.
Solsjkaer said after: “He must be Brazilian by the way, the way he struck that.”
Romelu Lukaku had hit the bar when he should have scored minutes earlier.
Fred hit the post in the first half but Arsenal had been the better side with Lacazette looking the most likely to score of the two strikers.
Emery had gone three at the back with Shkodran Mustafi benched, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Sead Kolasanic played wing backs and Aaron Ramsey and Xhaka holding with behind Ozil and the two strikers.
After he said it was “most important” to keep winning with different formations and players.
Leno made a superb save early on in second half stopping what looked like a certain goal from Lukaku.
Solsjkaer said: “We created more chances, big chances – we hit the woodwork twice. We can’t be disappointed with the performance.”
A fan ran on the pitch and pushed Chris Smalling but it was more of a harmless pitch invasion compared to the Birmingham incident.
Arsenal: Leno, Sokratis, Koscielny, Maitland-Niles, Monreal, Kolasanic, Xhaka, Ozil (Iwobi 76) Ramsey, Lacazette (Nketiah 86), Aubameyang (Suarez 80).
Subs not used: Cech, Elneny, Mustafi, Guendouzi.
Man U: De Gea, Liddelof, Pogba, Lukaku, Rashford, Smalling, Fred, Young, Dalot (Martial 82), Shaw, Matic (Greenwood 76).
Subs not used: Romero, Bailey, martial, Pereira, Mctominay, Greenwood.