Arsenal v Middlesbrough
Kick Off: Sunday February 15th, 2015 – 16:00 PM BST
In the first half, Arsenal produced arguably their best football this season. The passing moved at pace and with accuracy, preventing Middlesbrough players from having time to regain their shape and defend in numbers.
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Aitor Karanka’s master plan was to clearly try to defend in numbers and frustrate us. However, the movement bewildered Boro with our back four and Flamini concentrating on their defending.
The half belonged to Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil with the two maestro’s cutting the opposition to ribbons.
Cazorla had our first effort on target within the first five minutes with a free-kick from 20 yards with his ‘weaker’ left foot. Meijas made a comfortable save to divert the ball for corner.
We continued to probe without creating any clear-cut chances which was largely down to Kenneth Omeruo, the on loan Chelsea defender produced some heroics in the first half.
Our next opportunity came through Olivier Giroud, the Frenchman curling an effort from distance, this time the ‘Boro goalkeeper didn’t deal with it convincingly, pushing the ball to Alexis Sanchez who hit the side-netting from a tight angle.
It felt like the first goal was coming and Giroud duly delivered midway through the first half. A wonderful passing move which started at the feet of Sanchez who popped the into the path of Cazorla, the little magician spun instantly and released Kieran Gibbs, who fed Giroud who tapped in the Englishmen’s cutback.
At this point, we were purring and the likes of Ozil and Cazorla were starting to really turn on the class.
The second goal came swiftly, Giroud grabbed his second of the game with a finish only he could produce.
Making a near post run, the Frenchman curled a beautiful effort into the back of the net from a corner and a tight angle.
Middlesbrough responded with a tame 20-yard effort by Adomah which safely went through to Szczesny.
The second half started as the first ended, the boys didn’t allow Middlesbrough a chance to get a foothold in the game early on.
Calum Chambers went on an adventurous run down the right as he took the game to the opposition but couldn’t find Welbeck in the box.
Welbeck himself nearly got himself on the score-sheet as he bore down on goal, only to get the angles wrong with his chip which ended up as a throw-in.
Ozil, the star of the show, carved out a chance after he combined with Sanchez which would’ve been his second goal in two FA Cup games this season.
New-boy Gabriel Paulista looked calm throughout, going about his work quietly until the 55th minute when he was booked for cynically denying a Middlesbrough attack.
All our players wanted to get in on the act as Gibbs found himself in the Middlesbrough penalty area and had a shot saved which was heading into the roof of the net.
Sanchez nearly got himself on the scoresheet after he had a header denied from a Cazorla free-kick, Meijas pulling out a wonderful save with a goal looking inevitable.
The Chilean and Giroud were replaced by Tomas Rosicky and Theo Walcott and had our next chance following a counter-attack down the left. The ball was cutback to the edge of the area and a volley bouncing towards goal was headed away by Omeruo.
Walcott had another opportunity to give us a commanding lead with a trademark move as he was sent clear by Rosicky, a perfect first touch set the ball into his path and his shot was tipped wide minutes before the end of the game.
As we tried to calm down the game and run the clock down on another victory, Karanka’s men started to insert themselves just before the end.
Firstly, Adomah had a strike which made Szczesny dive at full-stretch but hit the side netting.
Then came Middlesbrough’s best chance of the game as Kike headed against the post from a Ryan Fredericks cross.
On a day of upsets and against a dangerous Middlesbrough side capable of upsetting the odds.
The team looked serious, determined and produced some outstanding football which showed the gulf in class between the two sides – a rarity in the FA Cup this season.