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Classy Sanchez scores twice as Arsenal overcome Stoke with ease

PUBLISHED: 15:26 11 January 2015 | UPDATED: 15:27 11 January 2015

Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez celebrates after making it 2-0 against Stoke.

Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez celebrates after making it 2-0 against Stoke.

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Arsenal 3 Stoke City 0

Top scorer Alexis Sanchez netted a double as Arsenal brushed Stoke aside with ease to move closer to the top four.

Sanchez set up Laurent Koscielny for an early goal before doubling the Gunners’ lead with a finish of quality and then wrapping up the points with a deflected free-kick soon after the restart.

Arsenal went ahead after six minutes – and it would have been even sooner but for Asmir Begovic, who pulled off two classy saves to keep his side on level terms.

First the Stoke goalkeeper flung out an arm to divert Sanchez’s curling shot away from the bottom corner and then he repeated the feat to turn Tomas Rosicky’s effort behind.

But the visitors failed to clear the resulting corner and Begovic was left helpless as Sanchez returned the ball into the box, where the unmarked Koscielny powered home a header.

There was no let-up from the Gunners – or Sanchez, who teed up Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for a low drive that flew just past the post and then crossed for Olivier Giroud, who forced another outstanding stop from Begovic.

And it was Sanchez who doubled the home side’s lead in the 34th minute, pouncing on Steven Nzonzi’s loose ball and exchanging passes with Rosicky before steering a precise finish past Begovic at the near post.

Stoke rarely looked likely to reduce the deficit, with Glenn Whelan’s long-range attempt sailing over the bar and Peter Crouch firing a tame effort at David Ospina in first-half injury time.

The visitors made a double change at the start of the second period – but the first contribution of one of them, ex-Arsenal midfielder Steve Sidwell, was to concede the free-kick that led to the Gunners’ third goal.

Sidwell scythed down Oxlade-Chamberlain on the edge of the box and Sanchez’s free-kick deflected through the wall, with Begovic pushing the ball onto the post but failing to prevent it crossing the line.

Although Crouch slid a chance wide at the near post, the only real issue for the rest of the game was how much further punishment the Potters would have to endure.

Santi Cazorla almost made it 4-0 after Stoke’s defence had been carved open again, collecting a return pass from Sanchez and lobbing Begovic, only to see the ball drop onto the roof of the net.

At the other end, Geoff Cameron put the ball in the net but was adjudged offside and, with the game won, Arsene Wenger sent on Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil, the latter for his first appearance in three months.

Both players had opportunities to increase the margin of victory, with Walcott running onto an inviting Sanchez pass but dragging his shot wide with only Begovic to beat.

Stoke substitute Stephen Ireland had a late chance to grab a consolation goal, but his close-range attempt was kept out by the diving Ospina as the Gunners claimed their second successive clean sheet.

Arsenal: Ospina; Debuchy (Bellerin 13), Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin; Oxlade-Chamberlain (Walcott 68), Rosicky, Cazorla, Sanchez; Giroud (Ozil 73).

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