Gunners beat Hoops to end 2011
Written By: Robert Halter
On new year’s eve, the last match to be played in 2011 at the Emirates stadium saw Arsenal face West Londoners Queens Park Rangers and with the Hoops struggling on their return to top flight football, the Gunners looked to capitalise against a QPR side situated just outside the drop zone and get Arsenal back into the top four contention for next season’s Champions League places. After the Gunners could only draw 1-1 with Wolverhampton Wanderers in their last home game, Arsenal looked to make up ground on the teams above them. With Gervinho and Marouane Chamakh departing for the African Cup of Nations in January, Arsenal announced the two month loan deal of Thierry Henry from New York Red Bulls as cover for both players while they were away but the match centred around whether Robin Van Persie could break the record for most league goals in a calendar year. Three former Gunners lined up for QPR, Jay Bothroyd, Armand Traore and Matthew Connolly. On nine minutes, Bothroyd marked his return by cutting inside Per Mertesacker and hitting a low drive into Wojciech Szczesny. The Hoops struck again a minute later as Adel Taarabt found space for Shaun Wright-Phillips but Szczesny kept out the close range shot by blocking the effort with his body. On sixteen minutes, Van Persie weaved his way around Connolly before striking his shot into the R’s stand in keeper Radek Cerny, deputising for the injured Paddy Kenny. Van Persie had another attempt with a header on twenty four minutes but failed to find the target from an Aaron Ramsey cross. A minute later and at the third time of asking, Van Persie cut inside Luke Young and chipped the ball over the top after picking up a pass from Johan Djourou. On the half hour mark, Van Persie lifted the ball over the top again, after Thomas Vermaelen’s ball through had put him in the clear. The Gunners had a penalty appeal turned away after Laurent Koscielny’s strike hit against one of Young’s raised arms in the area, four minutes later. Arsenal had another penalty claim turned away after Mikel Arteta’s strike hit Barton, four minutes from the end of the half, and then Barton had to head off the line a fierce strike by Ramsey. Cerny was then forced to parry away a long range blast from Arteta, to keep the game goalless at the break. A glaring miss by Theo Walcott, let Rangers off the hook on fifty six minutes, as Ramsey presented Walcott with the chance to go one and one with Cerny but Walcott steered the ball wide of the left post. But Arsenal did not have to wait too long for a goal, a matter of four minutes, after Wright-Phillips was punished for losing possession in the middle of the park and Andrey Arshavin supplied the pass through to Van Perise to apply the killer touch by turning the ball past Cerny into the left side of the net, an hour of the game had gone and the Gunners were a goal ahead. QPR tried to find a way back when midway through the second half, Taarabt’s low strike was put behind for a corner by Szczesny. The Hoops had their own claim for a spot kick turned away, after a challenge by Francis Coquelin on Barton with sixteen minutes of play remaining. But the Gunners responded a minute later, when Walcott set up Ramsey, whose strike cannoned over. Fine work down the left side of the area by Van Persie was squandered by Gervinho, whose shot strayed wide of the left post in the seventy seventh minute. Two minutes from normal time, Tomas Rosicky squared the ball for Ramsey but his low shot was comfortably dealt with by Cerny. However, it was fitting that 2011 should end with Arsenal’s man of the year and club captain, Van Persie securing the win against QPR, which left him one goal short of equalising the record of thirty six Premiership goals in a year.