Premier League: Arsenal 2 Cardiff City 1
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
Arsenal kept up their quest for a top-four finish with an unconvincing victory over Cardiff thanks to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.
After a frantic opening period, which Cardiff were unfortunate not to go ahead in, it was Arsenal who finally broke the deadlock in the Premier League clash at the Emirates.
Not for the first time this season, the Gunners stepped up the tempo in the second half and went ahead through an Aubameyang penalty before Lacazette fired home the second with just over five minutes remaining.
The visitors grabbed a late consolation goal through a brilliant curling finish from Nathaniel Mendez-Laing during injury time but it wasn’t enough.
While it was far from impressive, the Gunners have put the pressure back on London rivals Chelsea in the race for the all-important Champions League spot.
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Within the opening two minutes, Arsenal unlocked the Cardiff defence and should have gone ahead after Sead Kolasinac’s cross found its way to Lacazette, who saw his effort blocked inside the six-yard box.
The Gunners then came close to scoring again when Lucas Torreira’s fierce inswinging free-kick nearly nestled into the back of the net after evading everyone.
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But it wasn’t all one-way traffic and Cardiff had a fantastic chance to upset the odds and break the deadlock through Bobby Reid. However, he failed to trouble Bernd Leno, firing wide of the right post in the 13th minute.
And the same man then saw a free header sail over the crossbar just minutes later.
Arsenal all of a sudden were struggling to find their rhythm and it was Cardiff, whose plans were massively disrupted by the tragic incident involving Emiliano Sala, looking the more threatening and unfortunate not to be ahead at the break.
The crowd were becoming restless and the loudest cheer up to this point came on the hour mark when an unlikely substitutition saw lifelong Arsenal supporter Carl Jenkinson replace Stephan Lichtsteiner for his first Premier League appearance in 801 days.
But they didn’t have to wait long to get back on their feet when Kolasinac won a penalty for the hosts in the 65th minute after going down in the area following a challenge from Bruno Ecuele Manga.
Aubamayang, who had been on the periphery for the majority of the game, stepped up and sent Neil Etheridge the wrong way to become the fastest Arsenal player to score 25 Premier League goals.
Alex Iwobi, who came on as a half-time substitute, and Lacazette had the chance to put the result beyond doubt in the second half but couldn’t find their scoring boots.
But if you continue to give Lacazette space, he will eventually punish you and he did that with just over five minutes of normal time left.
The Frenchman cleverly skipped past the challenge of Sol Bamba before driving inside off the right to ruthlessly drill home Arsenal’s second of the night into the bottom corner.
However, Arsenal failed to keep a clean sheet yet again when Mendez-Liang curled home a delightful left-footed shot inside the post during injury time.
Unai Emery’s side will certainly have to up their game when they take on title-chasing Manchester City on Sunday.