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EPL: Sanchez, Ozil end Arsenal’s woes

Arsenal have moved back up to sixth in the Premier League table courtesy of a hard-fought 2-1 victory over struggling Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium on Monday.

Alexis Sanchez gave the Gunners a lead with a rare piece of quality in an otherwise uneventful first half, but that was cancelled out by Alvaro Negredo early in the second half.

Any other than a win would have been another major blow to Arsenal’s top-four hopes, but Mesut Ozil ensured that they closed the gap to the Champions League places back to seven points with a winning 19 minutes from time.

Middlesbrough, meanwhile, remain six points from safety and are now winless in their last 15 Premier League games, including seven at home.

It was a tense and cagey contest for the most part, with a 35-yard effort from Grant Leadbitter that flew comfortably wide the most notable attacking moment of the opening 20 minutes.

Boro did have the ball in the back of the net midway through the first half when Ramirez hoisted a ball into the middle for Marten de Roon to nod home, but he did so from an offside position and the celebrations were immediately cut short by the linesman’s flag.

Boro’s status as the lowest scorers in the top four tiers of English football made it difficult to see them getting back into the match, but it took just five minutes for them to find an equaliser after the restart as Arsenal once again failed to keep a clean sheet on the road.

Stewart Downing was the creator, cutting inside before clipping a fine ball into the middle that Negredo was able to poke home with the base of his foot having snuck in between the two Arsenal defenders.

The Gunners, who collapsed in the second half on their way to a 3-0 defeat at Crystal Palace a week ago, looked shaky again in the immediate aftermath of that goal and Downing failed to capitalise on some shoddy defending when he blazed the ball a long way over the crossbar from inside the area.

That sparked an open period of the match during which time Guzan thwarted Ozil after the German had got a toe to the ball after being found by Sanchez’s incisive through-ball.

Ozil would have better luck when he restored Arsenal’s lead 19 minutes from time though, with Sanchez and Ramsey combining to lay the ball into the path of the midfielder to fire home from close range.