Arsenal 2-1 Burnley: Late penalty keeps Arsenal in title race

If you think you've seen it all, think again. For the second time in three months, Arsenal needed a late stoppage-time winner to creep past Burnley, in another game that was more one-sided than the scoreline suggested.

A game of two late penalties, and plenty beforehand, Alexis Sanchez' cheeky penalty was enough for Arsenal to move up to second in the Premier League table, as they remain clamped to the coat tails of leaders Chelsea.

Shkodran Mustafi handed the wasteful hosts the lead with a glancing header just before the hour mark. But, an injury time penalty by Andre Gray looked to have salvaged a point for the well organised visitors, but for a controversial penalty handed to Arsenal after Ben Mee clashed with Laurent Koscielny. Early in the second half, Granit Xhaka saw red for the second time this season.

The last time the two sides met, at Turf Moor in October, Sean Dyche felt aggrieved at the nature of his team's defeat, falling foul to a last-gasp, questionable Koscielny goal. In the very early stages, the visitors looked to get their own back in Arsenal's back yard.

Burnley start brightly

Steven Defour's free-kick was met with a header across goal by Mee; Ashley Barnes was on the receiving end of it, but opted to nod the ball back where it came from rather than direct it goalwards. It proved to be an error, with the move fizzling out. However, after just three minutes, it showed promise.

But, for all their efforts - a high line to force Arsenal to go long from the goalkeeper, and two, industrious strikers in Gray and Barnes pressing the Arsenal backline, it didn't take long for Arsenal to settle into a familiar rhythm. Most of the first ten minutes was spent chasing the ball and it to and fro'd from red shirt to red shirt.

Laurent Koscielny is monitored by Ashley Barnes. | Photo: Getty Images/Julian Finney
Laurent Koscielny is monitored by Ashley Barnes. | Photo: Getty Images/Julian Finney

And yet, the Clarets almost forced their way through, making use of a rare spell of possession. Matthew Lowton - a member of the Aston Villa side that stunned Arsenal on the opening day of the 2013/14 season - linked up well on the right hand side with George Boyd before whipping in a low ball that just evaded the diagonal run of Barnes, with Cech gathering.

That seemed to spark Arsenal into life, yet the atmosphere around a crisp Emirates - bathed in sunshine, with cool air whirling around - remained flat, apprehensive almost; a palpable tension noticeable, with those around them who have played all dropping points. Although, there were plenty of chances to help warm the spirits, with Mesut Ozil and Sanchez stepping their performances up, causing Burnley problems.

Ozil tried his luck from 25 yards with a curling effort that looked to be heading towards the bottom left corner but for a strong right hand from Tom Heaton, who did well to look past the incoming Olivier Giroud, who provided an unwelcome distraction. From the resulting corner, Alex Iwobi's placed effort was deflected just wide by the heel of Mee. 

Whilst Burnley occasionally threatened on the counter, with Barnes forcing a save out of Cech from distance and Gray also peppering the Czech's hands, it was Arsenal who had the lion's share of the ball and a plethora of shots, racking up 14 before Jon Moss ended the first half.

Sanchez was the main protagonist, almost turning the game into a one man mission. Collecting a pass from Xhaka on his chest, the Chilean rolled past the eye-catching Michael Keane before rifling a low drive that Heaton held at the second attempt. Moments later from a barely cleared free-kick, Sanchez nipped past the desperate lunge of Boyd, but couldn't quite pick out the top corner with his effort through a crowd of players.

His frustration was visible, as it has been for the past few weeks. But Burnley had made it to half-time, in the game having put up a very respectable fight.

Arsenal press on; Xhaka sent off

The start of the second period saw much of the same, a wealth of Arsenal shots, with little accuracy. Giroud rose well to knock Sanchez' clipped cross towards the path of the incoming Aaron Ramsey, but unlike Giroud, he couldn't quite pull of an audacious scorpion kick attempt, sending it looping onto the roof of the net.

Once more, Sanchez probed, cutting inside and unleashing another venomous drive that flashed over the bar with Heaton reduced to a mere spectator. Then, Moss had a decision to make after Mustafi went to ground under challenge from Gray in the box, but his appeals fell on deaf ears.

As a response, Mustafi took matters into his own hands, by giving Arsenal a deserved lead. Taking advantage of some poor marking, the German rose above Keane to guide Ozil's in-swinging corner just beyond the reach of Heaton at full stretch.

Granit Xhaka is given his marching orders. | Photo: Getty Images/Julian Finney
Granit Xhaka is given his marching orders. | Photo: Getty Images/Julian Finney

For all the world, it looked to have paved the way for the floodgates to open, but it was anything but the case. Just six minutes after making the breakthrough, Arsenal found themselves in deep bother, as for the second time this season, Moss awarded Xhaka a straight red card for a reckless challenge on Defour after a loose pass. It was the Swiss international's ninth red card in just two years, and it handed Burnley a way back into contention.

Causing more problems, Defour saw his 25-yard free-kick tipped over the bar by Cech with swarms of blue shirts ready to pounce. Dyche threw everything at the game, bringing on Joey Barton, who was on the end of an inevitably hostile welcome from the Arsenal crowd, who had returned to state of nervousness.

Drama

Due to an injury to Dean Marney as he took down Ozil with a cynical tackle, Anthony Taylor's board signalled an additional seven minutes of added time. Despite the time on the clock, the game was just about to really start.

After spurning a chance at one end, Xhaka's replacement in the returning Francis Coquelin stuck a long leg out, which Barnes tumbled over gladly, with referee Moss pointing straight to the spot. And it was left to boyhood Arsenal fan, Andre Gray to seemingly put the final dagger in Arsenal's title hopes, and he duly obliged - despite Cech getting a weak hand to his effort. In the midst of the pandemonium, Arsene Wenger found himself in hot water after challenging Moss' decision before feebly pushing Anthony Taylor when he was sent to the stands.

Andre Gray tucks away his penalty. | Photo: Getty Images/Julian Finney
Andre Gray tucks away his penalty. | Photo: Getty Images/Julian Finney

Even then, the action was far from over, as Mee was adjudged to have caught Koscielny at the far post with a high foot in the area. After a moment's hesitation, Moss awarded a second penalty in three minutes. Questions of offside, and whether or not it was even a high foot, with the Frenchman stooping to meet the ball. However, showing nerves of steel, Sanchez clipped his penalty down the middle as Heaton committed to his left to secure a vital three points for the Gunners with what was the penultimate kick of the game.

How crucial could the crunch clash with Chelsea be in a fortnight?

VAVEL Logo