Arsenal 2 Queens Park Rangers 1
( Sanchez 37, Rosicky 65, Austin 79, pen )

Alexis Sanchez once again showed his worth to his club with a superb performance as Arsenal overcame a gutsy Queens Park Rangers to begin their festive campaign with a deserved victory. Under heavily wet conditions, the Gunners earned their win, even having gone down to ten men, when Olivier Giroud received a straight red card for what seemed to head but on Nedum Onuoha. However, despite having an eighth minute penalty saved by Robert Green, Arsenal were once again indebted to Tomas Rosicky’s second half strike to add to Sanchez’s earlier header.

The supremely talented former Barcelona man was the difference between the sides, scoring a goal and setting up the winner for Rosicky as Arsenal, who played much of the second half with ten men after Giroud was given his marching orders by referee Mike Atkinson. Despite second half pressure and the one mad advantage, Arsenal held firm to see off the west London side. Sanchez has now scored 15 goals for the Gunners.

However, on a dismal evening in north London, Arsenal made heavy weather of this. What on paper appeared to have been a relatively straightforward victory against QPR nearly saw Harry Redknapp’s men steal a much-needed point in a match played out in the large part under heavy rain.

“We made it hard for ourselves,” said Arsene Wenger. “The last five minutes were a bit edgy because we conceded a late goal last week (against Liverpool) and you could feel that was a bit in our mind.

“But overall I think we were in control for big parts of the game and in the end we have shown resilience and fortunately got the three points.”

Arsenal should have been on their way early in the match when former Gunner Armand Traore, took down Sanchez with a poor challenge in the penalty area. The Chilean striker stepped up to take the resultant spot-kick. However, he struck it poorly and Green saved well low down to his left.

Rangers may have come into the match having not picked up a single point on their previous eight games this season, but they had shown some strong performances against the league’s top sides.

Giroud led the line against the west London side, with Welbeck and Sanchez offering width and flexibility in a fluid forward set-up. With the home side dominating possession in an enjoyable first half, chances continued to come totally by way of Wenger’s men.

Having missed from the penalty spot, the breakthrough came on 37 minutes, through Sanchez. In truth, given their attacking prowess, it should have come a lot earlier than it did, but faced with a resolute Rangers’ defence, once again the Gunners were guilty of not taking their chances.

The goal was a well-crafted effort. After a period of sustained pressure, the ball found full-back Kieran Gibbs in the penalty area. With QPR’s back-line torn apart this time, he had time to assess his options. Lifting his head, Gibbs spotted the unmarked Sanchez, and found him with an accurate chipped cross. The Arsenal striker’s header was firm and flew beyond Green.

The second half started well for Arsenal, but on 53 minutes they were down to ten men after Giroud received his marching orders after an altercation with Onuoha.

Giroud responded angrily after the Rangers’ defender made a poor challenge on him moments earlier. The Frenchman picked himself off the ground, before hurtling towards Onuoha and appearing to headbutt his opponent in front of referee Martin Atkinson.

The official had no hesitation in brandishing the red card, and despite Giroud not making any protestation, replays suggested that Onuoha had made the most of the situation.

“It was was a deserved red card, Olivier didn’t control himself. It completely changed the dynamic of the game, we were completely in control at that stage and it was quite comfortable,” said Wenger of the striker who he now loses for the mandatory three-match suspended spell.

“Olivier is a guy who, when he makes mistakes, he stands up and admits it,” continued Wenger.

However, the hosts re-shaped and confidently took the game to the visitors. Despite having the advantage, Harry Redknapp’s men initially remained poor. Striker Charlie Austin, who had scored a hat-trick in their last match, at home to West Bromwich Albion, was starved of service all evening.

Arsenal extended their lead on 65 minutes, with the strike coming through Rosicky, who marked his first league start since May with a well taken goal goal. He finished with a powerful low shot after being played in by the the trickery and strength of Sanchez.

2-0 down, however, the visitors were not done.

They were thrown a lifeline on 78 minutes when full-back Mathieu Debuchy took down substitute Junior Hoilett in the penalty area. Austin slammed the spot-kick past goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny to set-up a nervy finish to this match for Gunners’ fans. Rangers poured forward with their attack now bolstered with the addition of substitute Bobby Zamora. He and Gibbs were tested late on with both attacker and defender not willing to give an inch.

However, despite their best efforts, the visitors were unable to force an equaliser.

For Rangers it is now nine away defeats. “Once they went down to 10 men, you’ve really got to make sure you keep it tight,” said Redknapp. “The one thing we didn’t want to do was concede another goal. To let the second goal in when we did was criminal.”

Arsenal’s fixture list continues with a trip to West Ham United on Sunday, and then to Southampton on New Year’s Day.