Published: 22 January, 2017
By RICHARD OSLEY at EMIRATES STADIUM
FA Premier League
ARSENAL 2, BURNLEY 1
HERE was another absurd afternoon in the Premier League but after this scarcely-believable theatre Arsenal will just be glad to emerge as victors from their frantic finish with Burnley, which saw two penalties in injury time and Arsene Wenger descend into an apoplectic rage.
The Gunners manager was sent to the stands shortly after Burnley had equalised with a 93rd minute penalty, after appearing to push a sideline official while remonstrating. He met this order by hovering in the tunnel, arguing some more and cursing Arsenal's apparent late slip.
He said afterwards, however, that he had regretted this burst of temper, and was almost sunny in his frank apology. "I should have just shut up and gone home," he said.
The 98th minute winner - Sanchez, also from the spot - will have helped soothe those furious temples.
This was the sum of the chaos which ensued after 90 minutes of lukewarm football had ticked by at Ashburton Grove today (Sunday).
Arsenal had huffed and puffed for most of the previous hour and a half against a well-drilled Burnley team, breaking through by scoring from a corner. Shkodran Mustafi angled his header, on the stretch, past the excellent Burnley keeper Tom Heaton.
It might have been the opening of the floodgates, a moment to loosen Burnley's compact rearguard, but as Wenger lamented later Arsenal made things complicated for themselves when Granit Xhaka was shown a red card for a dangerous, late challenge on Burnley's Belgian midfielder Steven Defour. He had lost the ball and then seemed to lose his temper too at making the error, diving in to make amends but just making the piece worst.
This is the second time Xhaka, a £30 million acquisition in the summer, has been sent off at the Emirates for a desperate foul in the no mans land of the halfway line, and as diplomatic as Wenger tried to be about it afterwards - he hardly ever criticises his own players - his patience will surely only run so far behind closed doors.
“He must control his game,” the manager said. “He must not punish his team.”
Xhaka almost did with his early bath, for once he was gone Arsenal’s attempts to score a second goal were reduced as Burnley tried to make the most of their extra man advantage. An afternoon which opened with the prospect of climbing into second, above everybody bar Chelsea, with a win had taken a worrying turn.
There were a couple of breakouts for Arsenal which might have led to goals: Francis Coquelin would have been an unlikely goalscorer on a rare excursion into the box but was foiled by Heaton’s dive late on. Coquelin, who was on for Iwobi and supposed to be shoring things up after Xhaka’s departure, was then the guilty man at the other end when his clumsy trip on Ashley Barnes gave Burnley their penalty. Petr Cech got a hand to Andre Gray’s kick but he was already diving the wrong way and the ball dropped into the net.
And yet there was still time, largely due to a lengthy injury to Dean Marney, who hurt himself fouling Mesut Ozil, for Arsenal to win the match all over again.
It was a winner soaked in controversy as Laurent Koscielny looked offside when he was fouled by Ben Mee, who by trying to acrobatically clear Sanchez's cross connected with the Arsenal defender’s face with an outstretched boot. Sanchez grabbed the ball put it on the spot and clipped the ball down the middle of the goal for a cheeky finish. If he was miserable-looking last weekend at Swansea, here was a guy who now could not stop smiling.
“He was too cool [with the penalty],” assessed Wenger. “But as long as it goes in and you can score, all you can do is accept it.”
After the frenzied end, he'd be right to accept any result which meant three points.
ARSENAL: Cech - Gabriel, Monreal, Koscielny (c), Mustafi - Xhaka, Ramsey, Iwobi (Coquelin 69), Ozil (Bellerin 89), Sanchez - Giroud (Welbeck 87)
SUBS NOT USED: Gibbs, Ospina, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lucas Perez