PREM: Arsenal 2-0 Sunderland


Sanchez celebrates putting Arsenal ahead

Alexis Sanchez kept Arsenal in the hunt for a top-four finish as his double secured a 2-0 win over Sunderland at the Emirates Stadium.


The Chilean scored simple goals in the 72nd and 81st minutes to put Arsene Wenger's side within one point of fourth-place Liverpool ahead of Sunday's final round of Premier League fixtures.

Arsenal will now look to beat Everton in their final match and hope Liverpool drop points against relegated Middlesbrough if they are to maintain their record of finishing in the top-four in each of Wenger's 21 seasons in charge.

They could mathematically still catch third-placed Manchester City, who beat West Brom 3-1 on Tuesday night, but that scenario would require defeat for Pep Guardiola's side at Watford with Arsenal enjoying a five-goal swing on the final day.

Arsenal would have expected to have improved their goal difference against a Sunderland team which will definitely now finish the season bottom, but David Moyes matched Arsenal's back three system and his side frustrated their hosts for long spells.
 
Sanchez was passed fit to start and thought he had created the opening goal on eight minutes, but his long-range strike deflected off the arm of Olivier Giroud as it beat Jordan Pickford and was correctly disallowed. Three minutes later, Giroud wasted the best chance of the first half when he collected Aaron Ramsey's pass inside the six-yard box, but his shot was kept out by Pickford's outstretched hand.

There were thousands of empty seats at the Emirates Stadium and those that turned up were not treated to a first-half goal. Petr Cech denied Didier Ndong and Jermain Defoe, while Hector Bellerin struck the side-netting instead of picking out Sanchez.
 
The second half opened in farcical circumstances as Nacho Monreal's 40-yard back-pass almost beat a stranded Cech, who conceded an indirect free-kick as he clawed it away. Seb Larsson's subsequent set-piece from six yards was headed over by Granit Xhaka.

Giroud glanced Monreal's cross just wide and Pickford kept out Danny Welbeck's low drive before Sanchez finally made the breakthrough with 18 minutes left.

Xhaka's lofted ball into the penalty area found Mesut Ozil on the left of the six-yard box and his first-time ball was tapped into an empty net by Sanchez to the relief of the below-capacity home crowd.

Sanchez chipped a cheeky effort onto the bar and Pickford produced two superb saves to deny Xhaka and substitute Alex Iwobi before Arsenal wrapped up the points with nine minutes left.
 
The inspired Pickford brilliantly pushed away Giroud's close-range volley, but the ball fell to Sanchez, who was perhaps fractionally offside as he headed the ball into an empty net from two yards.

Pickford still had time to push a late Shkodran Mustafi header onto the bar, but the goalkeeper's heroics could not prevent Arsenal from taking their late-season top-four charge down to the final day.


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