Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Flamini the unfortunate villain as Gunner slip up in the final 15 seconds against Swansea

· Wenger's post match thoughts   · Wenger gives injury update

A Mathieu Flamini own goal in the closing seconds of the game finally killed off Arsenal's title challenge.

The Frenchman was in the wrong place at the wrong time to divert the ball past Wojciech Szczesny as Swansea claimed a point in a 2-2 draw.

Arsenal looked set to have wrapped up all three points as a Lucas Podolski goal and assist inside a minute put the Gunner on course for all three points until the final minute own goal

The German came off the bench to first score from a Kieran Gibbs cross and then deliver the final ball for Olivier Giroud to score his 13th league goal of the season.

Wenger made just two changes from the side which was destroyed against Chelsea and one of those was enforced. Thomas Vermaelen started in place of the injured Laurent Koscielny and Mathieu Flamini came into the side in place of Lucas Podolski, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain taking the German's attacking role.

Arsenal started brightly with lots of possession and Oxlade-Chamberlain had the first attempt on goal inside three minutes.

But it was Swansea who took the lead with a Wilfried Bony header from a Neil Taylor cross from the left. Bony beat Vermaelen in the air and the Swansea forward's header flew into the back of the net with Szczesny cemented to his line.

It appeared that Bony just wanted it more than the Arsenal captain. But it didn't help that none of the midfield players or defenders cut out the cross. Arteta was the closest player to the ball but didn't close down the Taylor cross.

Arsenal had plenty of possession but little end product. The tempo of the passing was just too slow and predictable.

A Santi Cazorla corner provided Per Meresacker with the opportunity to head goalwards but this effort hit the side netting. Minutes later Olivier Giroud shot from outside the box was deflected wide for a corner.

Arsenal got lucky when a Swansea break away left the Gunners exposed three against two. Michu passed to Jonjo Shelvey who smashed a right footed shot from outside the box straight at Cazorla and then appealed for a penalty.

It seemed that the home side wanted a goal from a set piece because they were making little from open play. And it didn't help the Welsh side were playing with ten players behind the ball when Arsenal were in possession. Corners seemed to be our most viable route of scoring a goal.

A bursting Rosicky run saw him caught by Bony and the Ivory Coast forward saw his name placed in the referee's notebook.

It appeared the Arsenal team was dying for pace and for players to get in behind the Swansea defence. But it was only Oxlade-Chamberlain who was getting in behind the away team's defence.

Cazorla broguth a good save from Vorm three minutes before half time. The Swansea keeper couldn't get a clean take on the ball but no Arsenal player was following up the shot. The Gunners were camped in the Swansea half but there was little penetration.

No one appeared to want to take the game by the scruff of the neck. It was going to take something special to get us back in the game and there were a few boos inside the stadium at the half time whistle.

Arsenal started the second half in much the same manner as they'd been playing in the first. Plenty of possession but little in the way of chances in the final third. But when Gibbs did get clear of the Swansea defence there was no one in the box to convert his cross.

At the other end Michu got in front of Gibbs and if his shot had been on target it would have asked question of Szczesny.

Wenger was prepared to shake up his line up and brought Podolski on for Oxlade-Chamberlain. It was a puzzling change as the Englishman appeared to me to be the most likely to make a difference in the final third.

It was the home team being caught out as they pressed for an equaliser. Michu pulled off the back of Mertesacker and his header from a Jonathan De Guzmán cross was high over the bar.

Swansea made their first change of the game, bringing on Nathan Dyer for Michu with 27 minutes remaining.

Everything the Gunners were trying wasn't coming off.  Cazorla had a penalty claim when he was pushed inn the back, but it appeared the Spaniard went down easily under the challenge.

Arsenal finally had the ball in the back of the net with 19 minutes to go. A burst away from Gibbs on the left, he got to the byline and crossed for Podolski who finished from close range.

And moments later Arsenal were in front. Podolski was set free on the left and Giroud got in between the Swansea defenders to score from close range.

The ground sprung into life and their vocal support made it a much better atmsphere.

But then Swansea then put their front foot forward. Two chances inside a minute for the away team and it appeared the game was now open.

Wenger made his second change of the game by giving Kim Kallstrom his Arsenal debut in place of Rosicky. Swansea also made a change with 12 minutes to go, Pablo Hernández replacing Shelvey.

The Swedish midfielder showed some good passes, won a few tackles and added height to the Gunners midfield.

But the Welsh side were still asking questions of the Arsenal defence.

Wenger threw on his final substitution, with Yaya Sanogo replacing Giroud for the final two minutes.

With 15 seconds to go Leon Britton squeezed through the box, Mertesacker slid in, Szczesny saved the shot and it ricochetted into Flamini who could do nothing as it hit the back of the net.

Arsenal couldn't grab a winner in the four minute of injury time.

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