Arsenal and Middlesbrough fire blanks


Written By: Robert Halter


Newly promoted Middlesbrough returned to the Emirates stadium in late October, for the first time since losing in a F.A. Cup tie last season, as they looked to avoid defeat against Arsenal. In the seventh minute, after Middlesbrough’s Daniel Ayala brought down Alexis Sanchez, a free kick by Mesut Ozil, was driven high over the wall and the crossbar. Three minutes later, a miss placed headed clearance by Ayala, was latched upon by Alex Iwobi, before a fierce strike from Mohamed Elneny, was driven wide of the right post. But it was Middlesbrough that had the best chance in the nineteenth minute, as Ayala’s ball over the top, put Adama Traore free and his first time shot was blocked by Petr Cech, before a rebound effort from Alvaro Negredo produced another close range stop from Cech. But after Middlesbrough won a free kick for a foul on their club captain, George Friend by Hector Bellerin, a strong strike from the free kick by Gaston Ramirez, cannoned against the top of the Gunners crossbar. Midway through the first half, after Francis Coquelin was appended by Adam Forshaw, a curling free kick from Sanchez, produced a flying save by Victor Valdes, as the ball was destined for the top right corner. On thirty three minutes, Middlesbrough threatened again with a cross by Traore, and as the ball was knocked on from Negredo, a deflection off Laurent Koscielny, presented the ball to Ramirez, whose close range header, was stopped by a point blank save from Cech. Three minutes into the second half, after Sanchez was fouled by Ayala, a free kick by Ozil was headed on by Gunners captain, Koscielny, and as Valdes was caught flapping, Sanchez was unable to turn the ball in. On fifty one minutes, after Ozil was caught on the turn by Adam Clayton, a free kick from Sanchez, swerved past the left hand post. In the fifty fourth minute, after build up play from Coquelin and Elneny, a low fierce drive by Sanchez, was kept out by a sprawling save from Valdes, as he dived at full stretch to put the ball behind for a corner. But on fifty eight minutes, as Clayton released the ball, it gave the space for Traore to charge through, before his strike across the goal, was kept out by a diving save to his right by Cech. In the sixty seventh minute, after Coquelin won the ball, an incisive pass by Walcott fell to Sanchez, whose low shot was smothered by Valdes. Arsene Wenger on his sixty seventh birthday then presented Lucas Perez Martinez in favour of Iwobi. On seventy two minutes, a looping ball by Bellerin, caught out Ayala, as Valdes headed the ball into the patch of Walcott, who struck his shot directly back to Valdes. The Gunners then changed Elneny with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. From a right wing cross by Perez, a right footed shot by Walcott was clutched by Valdes, in the eighty second minute, before Middlesbrough brought on Stewart Downing for Ramirez. But near the end, from Traore’s run, a match saving tackle by Koscielny, denied Negredo from netting a late winner, before Negredo left the field for Cristhian Stuani. It was disappointment for Arsenal late in stoppage time as Ozil’s goal was ruled offside after the ball had been driven through by Oxlade-Chamberlain, so the game remained deadlocked and with the points shared, it left Middesbrough just above the drop zone and Arsenal joint top of the table.