Arsenal: Szczesny, Debuchy, Mertesacker, Monreal, Gibbs, Flamini, Cazorla, Rosicky, Alexis, Giroud, Welbeck
Subs: Ospina, Chambers, Bellerin, Coquelin, Walcott, Podolski, Campbell
Arsenal took three points against QPR at the Emirates this evening, but the 2-1 win came with 10 men as Olivier Giroud’s 2nd half red card saw the Gunners hanging on for dear life at the end.
There were two changes from the team which drew with Liverpool last Sunday as Nacho Monreal came into the back four in place of Calum Chambers, while Tomas Rosicky started his first Premier League game of the season in midfield after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain missed out with injury.
The visitors have the worst away record in the league this season, so it was no surpirse when the Gunners dominated from early on. After efforts from Cazorla and Alexis, Arsenal were awarded a 9th minute penalty when the Chilean was felled by Armand Traore.
Oddly, rather than Santi Cazorla who has scored two spot-kicks recently, Alexis himself took it but saw his weak effort easily saved by Rob Green. It was a tired attempt from the former Barcelona man and a glorious chance for Arsenal to take some of the early pressure off.
Arsene Wenger’s side stayed on top of the game with most of the possession but last-gasp tackling from QPR prevented the creation of anything clear cut. Olivier Giroud had a a 25th minute pop from distance but it was always going too high, before Alexis followed suit with a lasher over the top.
Giroud tested Green with a fine free kick, the QPR keeper making a good save and the Frenchman again showed himself to be the biggest threat with another shot that deflected away off Rio Ferdinand for a corner. From the resulting set-piece Mathieu Debuchy headed over.
Arsenal were utterly dominant and eventually the goal they deserved came in the 38th minute. The Gunners worked the ball from right to left, Kieran Gibbs cross found Alexis unmarked in the box and he headed his 15th goal of the season into an empty net with Green scrambling to get across. 1-0.
The West Londoners attempted to hit back straight away when a Caulker header skidded not far wide of Wojciech Szczesny’s far post, but Arsenal took the one goal lead into the break without any further danger.
There were no changes from either side at half-time and it was more of the same. Debuchy fizzed in a low cross which just evaded Alexis, but the game changed in the 54th minute when Giroud was sent off for a coming together with Nedum Onuoha.
There was a push from the QPR man as the HFB was going through on goal but in full view of the referee he raced back and put his head towards the head of the opponent who went down as if he’d been poleaxed. Despite the overreaction, it left the referee with no choice but to issue a straight red card, which means a three game ban for the Frenchman at the busiest time of the year. Ultimately it was completely unnecessary from Giroud, regardless of how Onuoha acted.
The visitors made two changes almost straight away with Junior Hoilett replacing Armand Traore while Karl Henry was removed to make way for Leroy Fer. With an extra man Arsenal found themselves under some pressure for the first time with Hoilett curling a shot over, but in the 65th minute the lead was doubled.
A brilliant Alexis run from midfield brought him to the the edge of the box, he rolled it across to the onrushing Tomas Rosicky who side-footed home to make it 2-0.
Krancjar shot wide as Rangers looked to respond, Isla curled a weak attempt which was easy for Szczesny, before Hoilett picked up a yellow card for hauling down a goalbound Debuchy. Cazorla floated the free kick just over the bar as Redknapp made his final change bringing on Bobby Zamora on for Jordan Mutch.
Debuchy set up Alexis inside the area but his curled finish was high and wide, and the Chilean turned provider when he fed Danny Welbeck whose deflected effort was saved by Green. It looked as if Arsenal might extend the lead further but that didn’t take into account referee Martin Atkinson who awarded QPR a 78th minute penalty.
Hoilett went over the tackle of Debuchy in the box, Atkinson ignored the fact the Frenchman got a touch of the ball and pointed to the spot. Charlie Austin stepped up and slammed it home to make it 2-1.
Arsene Wenger brought on Calum Chambers for the impressive Rosicky, moving Debuchy to centre-half as he looked to see out the game. There were some moments of real pressure as the Hoops used the width of the pitch to press home their man advantage.
Krancjar shot over the bar just before Arsenal brought on Francis Coquelin for Danny Welbeck in the 88th minute. A Hoilett shot deflected off Flamini for a corner which almost brought an equaliser. Isla’s flicked header was blocked close to the goal line by Flamini.
It was backs to the wall stuff with Monreal blocking a Fer shot, Zamora going down in the box under a Gibbs challenge but this time the referee failed to point at the spot. When we did have the ball we failed to hang onto it well enough, with goal hero Alexis a bit careless on the ball, but he did win a great free kick to take some of the pressure off well into injury time.
With injury time over, QPR had a free kick 40 yards from goal, dead central but Krancjar smacked it over the bar and the final whistle went.
Three valuable points but we made it a lot harder for ourselves than we should have. Now we’ll see if that extra effort costs us at Upton Park on Sunday.