A BRACE from Alexis Sanchez helped Arsenal maintain their majestic record in East Yorkshire with a 3-1 success at Hull City - on an afternoon when controversy prevailed at the KCOM Stadium.
The key moment in the game arrived in the 40th minute with Arsenal’s cause significantly assisted somewhat when Jake Livermore was extremely unfortunate to be dismissed by referee Roger East for handball after Francis Coquelin’s goalbound shot struck his upper arm - with Arsenal also awarded a spot-kick.
But Sanchez, whose inadvertently deflected in an Arsenal opener, saw his penalty excellently saved by Eldin Jakupovic.
Replays seemed to show that Livermore’s movement with his arm towards the ball was not deliberate, although East showed no hesistation in brandishing a red card to the fury of home supporters.
Theo Walcott finished off a polished move to double the Londoners’ lead on 55 minutes, but Hull got themselves back in proceedings 12 minutes from time when top-scorer Robert Snodgrass fired home his fourth goal of an excellent campaign thus far - sending Petr Cech the wrong way from the spot.
The award came after Cech raced out and felled substitute Dieumerci Mbokani, who had entered the fray for his Tigers debut from the bench moments earlier.
But Arsenal made the points five minutes later when Sanchez clinically fired home a rebound after Walcott’s shot was blocked, with the Arsenal star netting his sixth goal in five matches against the Tigers in the process.
Substitute Granit Xhaka fired home a splendid fourth in stoppage time for Arsenal, although the margin of victory was somewhat harsh on Hul.
The Gunners, who had not lost in Hull in over a century since April 2015, took the lead on 17 minutes in fortuitous fashion.
Sanchez got an inadvertent touch to Alex Iwobi’s follow-up shot after Eldin Jakupovic poorly parried Walcott’s cross-shot into his path after Hull were opened up down the left with Mesut Ozil afforded too much space.
His strike atoned for ballooning wastefully over when well placed six minutes earlier after Ozil and Walcott opened up City.
Sensing blood, Arsenal pushed for a second with Walcott cashing in on a short backpass from Andrew Robertson, but thankfully the Scot got back in the nick of time to make a key saving tackle.
The Tigers, who became the first side since Aston Villa in 2008 to field the same Premier League line-up at the start of the season for the fifth game running, struggled to impose themselves in the final third with the Gunners in the ascendancy.
Next to threaten was Walcott, with his first-time effort held by Jakupovic after Ozil’s pull-back.
Arsenal then spurned a glorious chance to double their tally on 28 minutes when Ozil fired a rebound over with the goal at his mercy after Jakupovic brilliantly parried Iwobi’s goalbound drive after the Nigerian was picked out by Hector Bellerin.
Hull’s best chance of the half by a country mile arrived on 36 minutes when Robert Snodgrass saw his angled low shot blocked by Petr Cech, back in goal for David Ospina, after good worm by Adama Diomande and Abel Hernandez.
Controversy then reined in a major way five minutes before the interval.
East adjudged that Jake Livermore intentionally blocked Francis Coquelin’s shot deliberately with his arm, awarding a penalty and giving the midfielder-turned defender a straight red card, to the fury of home fans.
Jakupovic, at fault for the first goal, then promptly turned from hero to villain in making a fine save to block Sanchez’s penalty, diving low to his right.
Soon after, Jakupovic had to be alert to make an instinctive save to prevent an own goal, keeping out Ahmed Elmohamady’s glancing header following Santi Cazorla’s inswinging corner.
East was afforded a cascade of boos at the interval, but when the second half started, there was no doubts about the legitimacy of the visitors second.
A quality move involving Cazorla, Walcott and Iwobi ended with Walcott dinking the ball neatly over Jakupovic with substitute Harry Maguire getting the final touch before the ball crossed the line.
It was slick and penetrating football from Arsenal, with Iwobi producing a delightful backheel to send Walcott clear on goal.
The game was effectively finshed as a contest after that moment, with it being a case of damage limitation after that for the hosts.
Hull’s endeavour and spirit could not be faulted, with a threatening moment seeing Hernandez see his acrobatic effort clip the woodwork, although the linesman had raised a flag for offside moments earlier.
Out of nothing, Hull were afforded a lifeline on 78 minutes after substitute Mbokani was sent clear with East pointing to the spot after the loan striker went down under the challenge of Cech, who had raced out of goal.
Snodgrass coolly dispatched the penalty, but Sanchez repelled any hopes of a grandstand finale on 83 minutes with his second.
A late screamer from substitute Granit Xhaka after being sent up by fellow replacement Mohammed Elneny provided the gloss, with City failing to close down the Swiss midfielder before his swerving long-ranger beat Jakupovic.
Interim manager Mike Phelan felt the red card against Livermore was harsh.
“My only question is was it a deliberate handball, which made it a sending-off,” he said.
“We all have hindsight afterwards when we see everything replayed and what have you, but I don’t think it was hand to ball, I thought it was more ball to the arm.
“I think Jake was probably on the half turn at the same time, so the referee deemed it deliberate handball, which is a red card.
“Then again, we can look at the other offence and it’s the opposite of that. Penalty decision, keeper brings a player down - yellow card.
“We know the rules, we can’t object against them, it was just the definition of whether that was a deliberate handball or not. I felt as though it wasn’t a deliberate handball.”
Phelan joked it was hard enough playing against 11 Arsenal players and preparing for that task is the reason he held off on contract talks.
The interim manager has now been offered a deal to become Steve Bruce’s full-time successor and will speak with his family about the deal on Sunday before meeting vice-chairman Ehab Allam on Monday.
Phelan said with a laugh: “My future is a lot brighter, I think - 48 hours ago I was offered some terms.
“Due to this game being so quickly upon us, I decided just to leave that alone and we’ll have a little read of it and see where we are going with it and discuss it with the family, hopefully take this club on.”