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Arsenal moved to third place in the Barclays Premier League with a narrow victory over Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road. Theo Walcott scored the only goal after 20 seconds, the fastest goal of the season in the Barclays Premier League and the quickest Arsenal have scored since the competition was formed in 1992, as they extended their unbeaten league run to eight games.
The game was settled by Walcott's strike, when he picked up a Mikel Arteta pass inside the area to fire beyond Rob Green. The England forward twice came close to adding to his tally when in the first half he hit a post and in the second forced a good save from Green.
QPR made four changes to their starting line-up, with Tal Ben-Haim, Andros Townsend, Ji-Sung Park and Bobby Zamora coming in. Arsenal made one enforced change, as Nacho Monreal replaced the injured Kieran Gibbs.
Arsenal had never beaten QPR away in the Barclays Premier League but they made the perfect start with Walcott's opener. Tomas Rosicky created space on the right-hand side, his cross found its way to Arteta on the edge of the area and the Spaniard played an intricate through-ball, giving Walcott plenty of time to force his effort past Rob Green.
Despite having plenty of the ball, Arsenal struggled to fashion many opportunities after that opener, but in the 26th minute Rosicky found Walcott on the right-hand side of the box. He turned sharply but saw his effort turned on to a post by Green.
The home side had a great chance to level soon afterwards when a quick counter-attack led to the lively Townsend finding Park in the box, but he put his effort well over the crossbar. Neat footwork by Zamora then led to another Park opportunity, although this time he could only force a corner.
The away side continued to dominate possession but they were almost caught out by a fierce 20-yard strike by Ben-Haim. Wojciech Szczesny made the save. Townsend then bent a free-kick from the left of the area wide of the right-hand post.
QPR began the second half with greater intent and twice went close to drawing level. First, Townsend cut in from the right before unleashing a thunderous effort that Szczesny palmed to safety before Loic Remy turned inside Bacary Sagna but hit a tame effort at the goalkeeper.
Arsene Wenger's side were struggling to make much of their possession, but Arteta could have done better when he found space in the box only to hit his effort straight at Green. Walcott came close to doubling his tally, as he outmuscled Ben-Haim before producing a low drive from the left of the box that Green got down early to stop and force the corner.
Zamora’s claims a penalty in the 78th minute when went down after jostling with Laurent Koscielny were dismissed. Szczesny then produced to a terrific save to keep the scores level. The ball found its way to Remy on the left-hand side of the area and he hit a curling first-time effort that was destined for the far corner, but the Pole made a brilliant save to his left.
Arsenal hung on for a victory to move into third position as they look to claim a UEFA Champions League position.
QPR manager Harry Redknapp: “I’m very disappointed that we didn’t get anything from the game. We went a goal down after only a minute. It was a ghastly goal to give away – poor defending. But after that I think we were good.
“The first half was difficult but we showed fantastic spirit. We could have dropped our heads but we never did. We hung in there. We kept going and defended for our lives today. We could have gone under after conceding so early, but we were every bit as good as them.”
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger: “We scored early and started well. After that, QPR played with quality and pride. They were fearless. They had the quality to stay in the Premier League and they made life difficult for us.
“We had good determination and focus. We lacked a few final balls in the final third. But I expected a difficult game and I was not disappointed. We need a special focus to win this game.
“The pitch did not help. Overall we played a little bit conscious that points were vital and we could not make any mistake. It was detrimental to our offensive game but we had a sound defensive game today.
“[Walcott] is 24 now. He's a mature player. He has improved his finishing. He has improved his ability to resist to pressure from the opponent. I can't remember [a goal as quick as that]. Unfortunately I waited for the second goal but it never came!”