Football: Arsenal throw away chance to reignite Champions League hopes

Arsenal's Emile Smith Rowe looks dejected after the match. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - Southampton ended a five-match winless run in the Premier League with a 1-0 victory over Arsenal at St Mary’s Stadium on Saturday (April 16), dealing further damage to the visitors’ hopes of finishing in the top four this season.

Mikel Arteta’s side slipped to sixth place in the standings after Jan Bednarek’s goal late in the first half and an inspired display from Southampton goalkeeper Fraser Forster handed them a third straight defeat.

Bednarek gave Southampton a slender advantage one minute before halftime after Mohamed Elyounoussi evaded the offside trap and crossed for the defender to finish past goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale after Arsenal failed to deal with a corner.

Arsenal, without forward Alexandre Lacazette due to Covid-19, failed to take advantage of early chances and were largely limited to speculative shots from distance, and their late push for an equaliser was thwarted by Forster.

“We needed a goalkeeper like him today,” Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuettl said. “I wasn’t so sure he could play. He had a problem with his ankle.”

Forster, who denied Gabriel Martinelli after nine minutes with an acrobatic save, later clawed away substitute Emile Smith Rowe’s effort at full stretch before blocking a shot from Bukayo Saka and diving to save Granit Xhaka’s deflected strike.

“There were some nice saves in there. It’s always nice to contribute and keep a clean sheet. It’s a goalkeeper’s dream, really,” Forster said. “I’m just working as hard as ever, trying to keep improving my game and see where that takes me.”

Hasenhuettl’s Southampton climbed up to 12th place on 39 points with their first league win since February. They had previously lost five of their last six games in all competitions and conceded 19 goals, including six to Chelsea at home last week.

“Obviously last week was hard,” the 34-year-old Forster added. “There has been a lot of soul searching during the week, but it shows the desire of the squad... It was a great reaction, it feels fantastic.

“Ideally, we’d like to finish in the top half. If we want to do that, we’ve got some work to do. We’re hoping for a strong finish between now and the end of the season.”

Arsenal, who dominated 76 per cent of the possession and had five shots on target, threw away the opportunity to re-ignite their top-four hopes after Tottenham’s loss to Brighton & Hove Albion earlier on Saturday.

Arteta’s side will take on Chelsea at Stamford Bridge next weekend before hosting Manchester United while Southampton travel to Burnley and Brighton.

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