LONDON (Reuters) - Arsenal all but sealed Champions League qualification for an 18th successive season after they eased past relegation-threatened Hull City 3-1 in the Premier League on Monday.
Alexis Sanchez’s deflected free-kick wrong-footed stranded keeper Steve Harper to hand Arsenal a 28th-minute opener before Aaron Ramsey doubled the advantage four minutes later when his shot was diverted into the net via a Hull defender.
Sanchez rounded Harper to add his second in first half stoppage time and, though they improved after the break, Hull’s solitary response came from Stephen Quinn’s 56th minute header.
Arsenal, in third, have 70 points from 34 matches and trail second-placed Manchester City, who have played a game more, on goal difference.
Hull sit one point and place above the relegation zone and face the daunting prospect of games against Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United among their remaining three fixtures.
“The most important thing was the victory today because the team is in a very good moment,” Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla, who dictated proceedings throughout, told Sky Sports.
“We want to win the title next year. We want to get second place this season but the most important thing now is qualify for the Champions League, win the FA Cup and then prepare well for next season.”
Arsenal are unbeaten in the Premier League since February and there were few signs in the opening stages at the KC Stadium that Hull would hand them a first league defeat in 10 games.
After a commanding opening the Gunners hit Hull with two rapid fire goals through dynamic attacking-midfielders Sanchez and Ramsey — though keeper Harper had no chance with either trajectory-altering deflections.
If their first two goals had an element of fortuity, Arsenal’s third was particularly eye-catching with Sanchez collecting Ramsey’s defence splitting pass before rounding Harper and finishing with ease.
Hull improved after halftime and pulled a goal back through Quinn but Arsenal boast the Premier League’s third stingiest defence and rarely looked like conceding again.
Arsenal welcomed back midfielder Jack Wilshere for the first time since injuring his ankle in November and the diminutive England international, who impressed as a 67th-minute substitute, was unlucky to see his goal-bound shot blocked in the closing stages.
Reporting by Tom Hayward; editing by Justin Palmer