By Josh James at Emirates Stadium
Bafetimbi Gomis’s late headed goal was enough to give Swansea victory, after Lukas Fabianski had frustrated his former team-mates on his return to Emirates Stadium.
On 85 minutes Gomis rose highest to meet Jefferson Montero’s cross, and the electronic goal-line system ruled that the ball crossed the line as David Ospina desperately tried to claw it away.
It was a sucker-punch for the Gunners, who had dominated possession, and created plenty of chances, especially in the second half.
But former Gunner Fabianski saved well from Santi Cazorla, Theo Walcott and Alexis Sanchez as Arsenal’s 10-match unbeaten run in the Premier League came to an end in frustrating circumstances.
SETTING THE SCENE
Liverpool’s draw at Stamford Bridge on Sunday had confirmed Arsenal’s 19th consecutive top-four finish, but both Manchester sides won over the weekend to keep the pressure on in the race for automatic Champions League qualification.
The Gunners came into the game on the back of a 10-match unbeaten run in the league, and as such Arsène Wenger attempted to keep up the momentum by naming an unchanged side for the fifth time in a row. It’s the first time Arsenal had named the same side for five successive league games for more than 20 years.
That meant Aaron Ramsey overcame his injury concern to maintain his place on the right, while Gabriel for Calum Chambers was the only change among the substitutes.
Swansea condemned Arsenal to their second league defeat of the season back in November, and chief tormentor that day Montero was back in the starting line-up. However their match-winner at the Liberty Stadium, Gomis, was only fit enough for a place on the bench as the visitors lined up without a recognised striker.
Both sides passed the ball crisply during the opening exchanges on a sunny spring evening in north London, with the hosts, not surprisingly, seeing more of the ball.
They couldn’t convert this possession into clear cut opportunities however.
Olivier Giroud had the first half chance, looping a header onto the roof of the net from Ramsey’s cross while Mesut Ozil tamely hit his free-kick into the wall after Giroud was brought down by Ashley Williams five yards outside the box.
For the visitors Montero brought back memories of that November defeat in Wales with a rapid run on the left wing after dispossessing Hector Bellerin deep in his own half, but Ramsey was back covering to deny the Ecuadorian.
The Swansea players were not holding back in their attempt to disrupt Arsenal’s rhythm, and Alexis in particular was the subject of a couple of early robust challenges. One such tackle on the Chilean inside the box was deemed legal by referee Kevin Friend though, as the Gunners appealed for a spot kick.
With the disciplined Swansea defence looking compact and organised, Giroud was reduced to shooting from range, but his curler from 20 yards sailed harmlessly wide as the half-time whistle approached.
It extended the Gunners’ record of not conceding in the first-half to 15 Premier League games.
The game needed a lift, and a moment of incisiveness five minutes after the restart triggered it. The ball was neatly worked to Hector Bellerin on the right wing, but Fabianski came out well to meet his low cross ahead of Giroud at the near post.
Alexis was next to dart into the box, crashing a shot into the side netting as the game began to open up.
Swansea came alive as an attacking force too - David Ospina had to be alert to leave his line and cut out Montero’s cross, just in front of the feet of the advancing Ki Sung-Yueng.
Ozil was a growing influence on the game. He found Giroud in the area, but the Frenchman’s low snap shot was easy for Fabianski to gather. Ramsey was the next to be picked out by a searching Ozil pass, but his finish didn’t match the build-up play.
Roared on by the Emirates crowd, Arsenal raised the tempo, and Santi Cazorla was next to try his luck, only for Fabianski to claim at the second attempt.
The manager turned to Jack Wilshere and Walcott midway through the half, and the latter failed to make sufficient contact when the ball deflected to him off the boot of a Swansea defender just in front of goal.
The chances kept coming. but Fabianksi was proving a formidable presence in the Swansea goal. First the former Arsenal man denied Nacho Monreal at his near post, before saving comfortably from Wilshere.
The Pole was then in the right place to make a double save from Alexis and Walcott as the pressure increased.
But then came the hammer blow. Substitute Gomis beat the Arsenal defence to meet a high cross from the left wing, and there was a moment of hesitation and confusion before the referee got the signal to award the goal.
Referee: Kevin Friend