THREE POINTS: Arsene Wenger
ARSENAL BOSS Arsene Wenger recorded his 400th Premier League win as his team beat QPR 2-1 on Boxing Day.
This game had everything; goals, a red card and two penalties as Wenger’s men kept their top four dream alive.
Returning Gunner Tomas Rosicky hit the winner in the in the 65th minute but the scoreline did not reflect the anxiety that the home side had to endure before the final whistle.
Former England international Rio Ferdinand returned to the Rangers starting XI, he was one of five changes for the west London outfit.
With an eye on Sunday’s match against lowly Crystal Palace, QPR boss Harry Redknapp started with key men such as midfield dynamo Leroy Fer and veteran striker Bobby Zamora on the bench.
With the teams in and around them having a good Bank Holiday, the Gunners needed to win.
Arsenal had an immediate opportunity to get off to a flyer.
In the 8th minute Alexis Sanchez was brought down by a wild challenge in the home penalty area by former Arsenal man Armand Traore.
The Chilean, who has been superb all season, picked himself up and dusted himself down, and having taken the ball off Santi Cazorla was then denied by a Robert Green diving to his left.
In all honesty it was a poor spot kick by Alexis, which gave Green every chance.
The South American was cross with himself for several minutes after, with the effect that he was then guilty of trying a too hard.
QPR are a poor side and should have been blown away in the first half; they constantly gave the ball away and looked devoid of ideas.
Only Green looks like a man in form. He was to save again from Olivier Giroud on the half hour mark.
But Alexis was not to be denied in the 37th minute. After a run and cross by left-back Kieran Gibbs, the diminutive forward leapt like a salmon to nod home much to the relief of himself and an expectant crowd.
The second half started as if the hosts would add to their tally but a lack of festive cheer turned the match in the away side’s favour.
In the 54th minute Giroud momentarily lost his mind and put his head in the face of Nedum Onuoha after the pair had challenged for the ball.
The Frenchman’s action gave ref Martin Atkinson no choice but to brandish a red card.
However, Arsenal showed their mettle by increasing their lead just 12 minutes after the sending off when after a slalom run and neat pass by Alexis, Tomas Rosicky fired home from the edge of the box.
But the action was far from over. QPR substitute Junior Hoillett shifted the momentum back in his team’s favour.
From the moment he came on the diminutive winger ran rings around right-back Mathieu Debuchy. The defender, during another attempt to halt his opponent, conceded a penalty after tripping the wide man. Charlie Austin did the rest and fired home on 79 minutes.
At this stage the visitors sensed they could eke out a precious point against the odds.
To their credit, Arsenal defended well thereafter while their opponents were guilty of being wasteful when they had good situations.
While Austin is the top-scoring Englishman in the Premier League this season with 12 goals, Redknapp’s team face a tough winter.
They are the only team in the league who have yet to win on their travels and have only scored four goals away from Loftus Road.
Redknapp will look at today’s match as an opportunity missed.
As for Wenger, he will be relieved and will no doubt be plotting over the next few days just how his team can overcome top four rivals West Ham on Sunday afternoon.