Wed | Dec 8, 2021

Xhaka’s blunder costs Arsenal

Published:Sunday | March 7, 2021 | 12:09 AM

Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka (left) and Burnley’s Ashley Westwood challenge for the ball during the English Premier League match between Burnley and Arsenal at Turf Moor stadium in Burnley, England, yesterday.
Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka (left) and Burnley’s Ashley Westwood challenge for the ball during the English Premier League match between Burnley and Arsenal at Turf Moor stadium in Burnley, England, yesterday.

BURNLEY, England (AP):

Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka gifted a bizarre equaliser to Burnley in a 1-1 draw in the Premier League yesterday that further damaged his team’s chances of reaching the European qualification positions.

Xhaka received a pass from goalkeeper Bernd Leno inside Arsenal’s penalty area and attempted a pass around Burnley striker Chris Wood to teammate David Luiz with his weaker right foot. The ball went straight to Wood and deflected into the net off the striker’s hip in the 39th minute.

That cancelled out a fifth-minute opener by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in a game that only really came to life in the final 15 minutes.

After Arsenal were denied a penalty for an apparent handball against substitute Erik Pieters, the Burnley defender seemed to give away a spot-kick in a separate incident in the 84th when a goal-bound volley from Nicolas Pépé appeared to strike Pieters’ arm and deflect onto the crossbar.

Pieters was also shown the red card, but VAR looked at the incident and deemed the ball hit his shoulder, so both the awarding of the penalty and the sending-off were overturned.

Burnley also came close to snatching victory, with Leno first tipping over a dipping long-range effort from Pieters and then saving with his feet from Wood.

Then, in the final seconds, Arsenal substitute Dani Ceballos struck the post following a goalmouth scramble.

“It’s a really tough place to come on a difficult pitch, but I have to say we should have scored the big chances we had,” Arsenal Manager Mikel Arteta said. “When you miss the chances we had, and you do not get decisions, it is complicated to win football games.”

On the first penalty incident involving Pieters, when the ball struck his outstretched left arm after coming off the boot of Pépé, Arteta said: “If that is not a penalty, then someone needs to explain what one is.”

Arsenal started the game nine points from European spots and have only 11 games left.

Burnley moved seven points clear of the relegation zone.