Belfast Telegraph

Middlesbrough v Arsenal - story of the match

Mesut Ozil fired a second-half winner which kept Arsenal's hopes of a top-four finish just about alive and sent hosts Middlesbrough hurtling closer to the drop.

Alexis Sanchez served up the highlight of a turgid first period when he curled home a delicious free-kick opener in the 42nd minute to ease the pressure on manager Arsene Wenger.

Alvaro Negredo capitalised on the Gunners' defensive frailty to grab an equaliser five minutes after the break but Ozil netted Arsenal's second from close range in the 71st minute.

TWEET OF THE MATCH

@garylineker Never mind whether Wenger stays or goes, if Arsenal let Sanchez slip away, they're screwed.

STAR MAN

It might not have been the best performance by Alexis Sanchez in an Arsenal shirt but his superb free-kick opener and his incisive cross that led to the Gunners' second almost single-handedly turned the course of the match in his side's favour.

MOMENT OF THE MATCH

Mesut Ozil did little on the night but found himself in the right place to capitalise on Aaron Ramsey's knock-down in the box in the 71st minute. His crucial goal gave Wenger breathing space and surely sucked the top-flight life out of the hosts.

VIEW FROM THE BENCH

With his side clinging to their Champions League hopes by their fingertips, Wenger will care little but the underwhelming nature of his side's performance. In snapping a wretched run of away performances, he bought himself a little more time in the battle to determine his future. Boro boss Steve Agnew will justifiably take plenty of positives from his side's display but the fact is though they deserved more, they remain adrift in the relegation zone and only a remarkable upturn in fortunes is likely to save them now.

PLAYER RATINGS:

Middlesbrough

Brad Guzan: 6

Antonio Barragan: 6

Daniel Ayala: 6

Ben Gibson: 6

Fabio: 5

Grant Leadbitter: 6

Adam Clayton: 5

Marten de Roon: 6

Stewart Downing: 7

Gaston Ramirez: 6

Alvaro Negredo: 7

Substitutes:

George Friend (for Fabio, 17) 6

Rudy Gestede (for de Roon, 79) 5

Adama Traore (for Ramirez, 68) 6

Arsenal

Petr Cech: 6

Gabriel: 6

Laurent Koscielny: 5

Rob Holding: 6

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: 6

Granit Xhaka: 6

Nacho Monreal: 5

Aaron Ramsey: 7

Alexis Sanchez: 8

Mesut Ozil: 6

Olivier Giroud: 6

Substitutes:

Hector Bellerin (for Ozil, 90)

Francis Coquelin (for Sanchez, 90)

WHO'S UP NEXT

Arsenal v Manchester City (FA Cup, April 23)

Bournemouth v Middlesbrough (Premier League, April 22)

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