Arsenal too classy for Middlesbrough
Written By: Robert Halter
Gabriel Paulista became the Gunners latest defensive lynch pin with a home debut mid February in the last sixteen encounter of the F.A. Cup with the visit of Championship side, Middlesbrough. On four minutes, following a foul by Adam Clayton on Olivier Giroud, the Gunners captain, Santi Cazorla, stepped up and bent a free kick around the Boro wall, that Tomas Mejias, at full stretch, turned behind his left post. In the fourteenth minute, Danny Welbeck set up Giroud, whose bending strike was clawed away by Mejias, at his left hand side, before Alexis Sanchez, put the follow up shot into the side netting. Midway through the first half, Mesut Ozil, slid a pass through to Giroud, but his tame effort was comfortably held onto by Mejias. But it was Arsenal that got the breakthrough in the twenty seventh minute, as Sanchez combined with Welbeck, whose touch was put through by Cazorla and after a perfectly measured cross by Kieran Gibbs on the left flank, it was latched upon by Giroud, and Mejias was unable to hold the ball as he spilled the shot into the net. Two minutes later, Giroud added to his goal tally, after a quickly taken corner by Sanchez, as the ball was whipped over to the advancing Giroud, who met the ball with a low volley to slam the ball into the net. On thirty five minutes, Clayton was on a rescue mission as Sanchez beat Mejias to the chase when the ball was put through from Ozil, but at hand was Clayton to clear the danger from the goal line. It wasn’t until the thirty ninth minute that Boro threatened, as Kenneth Omeruo, charged forward but he could not find a testing shot to trouble, Wojciech Szczesny. Four minutes into the re-start, the Gunners built more momentum, as Ozil’s cross field pass was hit first time by Mathieu Flamini, but his shot was shy of the target. Then a darting run by Calum Chambers on fifty two minutes, set Welbeck free, whose effort brushed past the face of the goal. Within a minute, Sanchez put Ozil in the clear, whose well struck ball in the area was blocked convincingly by Mejias. Middlesbrough made a double change of Jelle Vossen for Lee Tomlin and Adam Reach taking the place of Patrick Bamford. On sixty three minutes, the Gunners dominance continued, as Giroud’s through ball from the edge of the box was collected by Gibbs, and his fierce strike was pushed away by Mejias to safety. Following a handball by Clayton, the Gunners were awarded a free kick which was driven in from Cazorla, and from Sanchez’s downward header, Mejias produced a heroic save on his goal line at full stretch. Arsenal soon made two substitutions as Tomas Rosicky replaced Sanchez and Theo Walcott took over from Welbeck. On seventy six minutes, the Gunners broke from their own half, as Cazorla started and ended the move, as in between Giroud linked up with Rosicky, before Cazorla fired the ball over the upright. In the eighty second minute, a strong block from Omeruo’s forehead, fended away Walcott’s cushioned header, from Ozil’s left wing cross. In a final Arsenal change, Chuba Akpom made a brief appearance in favour of Giroud. With eighty seven minutes played, Cazorla pinged the ball across the park, and Ozil’s snap shot was calmly collected by the gloves of Mejias. But a minute later, Rosicky carved an opening for Walcott, whose low drive was scrambled away by Mejias. It wasn’t until the end of the game that Middlesbrough bucked up their ideas when with full time approaching, a sweet left footed strike by Albert Adomah, flew past the target. Then in stoppage time, Boro were close to a consolation goal, when from a Ryan Federicks right wing cross, the ball was met by a well timed header from Kike, which crashed against the far post, but with Szczesny untroubled throughout the tie, cup holders, Arsenal had a safe passage through to the quarter finals.