Belfast Telegraph

Sanchez keeps Arsenal in top four fight

Arsenal 2 - Sunderland 0

By Jim van Wijk

Alexis Sanchez hit a brace as Arsenal secured victory over relegated Sunderland in front of a sparsely populated Emirates Stadium to keep alive their dwindling hopes of Champions League qualification.

The Gunners needed to beat David Moyes' men to take the battle to finish in the top four of the Premier League down to the last day of the campaign.

They made heavy weather of their task, with Sanchez scoring a close-range double inside the final 17 minutes to secure the points with a 2-0 win.

Under-fire Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has never finished outside of the top four in a full season at the helm but despite this win, and even though it remains mathematically possible, the club look set for a Europa League campaign next year.

Manchester City's victory over West Brom means Arsenal need to beat Everton on Sunday and hope Liverpool slip up at home to Middlesbrough to gate-crash the top four.

Wenger's own position still remains a mystery as he has yet to announce if he will sign a new deal to remain at the club beyond the FA Cup final meeting with Chelsea on Saturday week.

A lot of the home fans who stayed away from this clash did so in protest against Wenger remaining in charge.

Some supporters chose to stay away for other reasons but the official attendance of 59,510 was certainly wide of the mark, with Arsenal recording tickets sold rather than the figure attending.

"We had plenty of shots on goal but we needed to be patient. We were frustrated at half-time not to be leading," said Wenger.

"We made 71 points (last season) and were second. We now have 72 and want to go to 75. After that you deal with what happens. We've got in on the final day many times."

When pressed about whether he'll be staying on as manager, Wenger remained evasive: "At the moment let's focus. We have a big game again on Sunday and then an FA Cup final - let's sort that out first."

If the Gunners beat Everton at home, and Liverpool lose or draw against Middlesbrough, Wenger's boys will scrape into the Champions League yet again.

ARSENAL: Cech, Holding, Mustafi, Monreal, Bellerín, Ramsey (Welbeck 69), Xhaka, Gibbs (Iwobi 69), Özil, Sanchez, Giroud (Walcott 85). Subs: Gabriel, Ospina, Coquelin, Elneny

Scorer: Sanchez (72, 81)

SUNDERLAND: Pickford, Jones, O'Shea, Koné, Manquillo (Januzaj 82), Ndong (Gibson 88), Cattermole (Gooch 77), Larsson, Oviedo, Borini, Defoe. Subs: Mannone, Rodwell, Lescott, Love

Referee: Roger East

Man of the match: Sanchez

Match rating: 6/10

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