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Rory MarsdenFeatured ColumnistApril 17, 2017

Mesut Ozil’s second-half winner ended Arsenal’s miserable four-match losing away run in the Premier League as the Gunners beat Middlesbrough 2-1 at the Riverside Stadium on Monday.

Alexis Sanchez’s first-half free-kick was cancelled out by Alvaro Negredo soon after the break, and Boro briefly looked as though they could kick on to claim a hugely valuable win in the fight against relegation.

But a crushing right-footed strike from Ozil 19 minutes from time reestablished Arsenal’s lead, and they saw out the victory to move back into sixth place in the Premier League table.

Both clubs provided their lineups ahead of kick-off, with Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger opting to deploy a back three:

Boro looked sharp early on, particularly Gaston Ramirez, but could not trouble Petr Cech in the opening exchanges.

The hosts then lost Fabio to injury after 17 minutes—he was replaced by George Friend—before having a Marten de Roon goal correctly ruled out for offside.

A fairly pedestrian first half was defined by Sanchez’s excellent set-piece goal three minutes from the break.

The Chilean lined up a central free-kick after Adam Clayton’s foul on the edge of the box, and Sanchez managed to get the ball up and down and past Brad Guzan in a flash from just over 20 yards, per Squawka:

The second half was a different prospect altogether and much more entertaining for it. 

Negredo equalised in the 50th minute as he improvised brilliantly to poke home Stewart Downing’s superb cross from the right following an enterprising run.

It was fine wing play from Downing, and Negredo’s finish was not to be saved, but Laurent Koscielny was culpable for allowing the Spanish forward to get his foot on the ball, per ESPN FC’s Mattias Karen:

The game opened up dramatically after Middlesbrough’s equaliser, and Downing had a fine opportunity to work Cech after more poor Arsenal defending but could only blaze over the bar.

The Gunners goalkeeper then kept out a point-blank Daniel Ayala header on the line to keep the score level.

Just after the hour, Guzan was forced into a fine save at the other end after Ozil had been slipped through the middle.

But he could do nothing to keep out the German playmaker when he lashed home at the near post in the 71st minute from Aaron Ramsey’s chested knockdown.

From there, Arsenal did well to largely shut the game down—barring a nervy late chance for Boro from a free-kick after more poor Gunners defending.

The win moves Wenger’s men back to within seven points of the top four, while Boro are still six points from safety with just six games remaining. 

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