Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring a goal during their English Premier League soccer match against Stoke City at the Emirates Stadium in London January 11, 2015 (Photo: Reuters)
A sublime Alexis Sanchez scored twice and created a third as Arsenal climbed level on points with fourth-placed Southampton following a 3-0 Premier League victory against Stoke City on Sunday.
After Laurent Koscielny headed Arsenal into a sixth-minute lead from a Sanchez cross the outstanding Chilean fired in a brilliant second before scoring with a deflected freekick for his 18th goal in all competitions this season.
Arsenal's win was soured by a dislocated shoulder suffered by defender Mathieu Debuchy but the Gunners were able to welcome back German World Cup-winner Mesut Ozil following a lengthy absence.
Victory lifted Arsenal above rivals Tottenham Hotspur to fifth, level with Southampton who travel to Manchester United, one point and place above them, in Sunday's late game.
"It was very important to start the game well. We remember the game at Stoke, after 20 seconds we conceded a goal," Koscielny told Sky Sports.
"We were very focused and it's very important to score the (early) goal and very important that the three points is with us."
In the reverse fixture at the Britannia Stadium in December Arsenal conceded inside 20 seconds and were 3-0 down at halftime but on Sunday the Gunners were electric.
After they were twice denied brilliantly by Asmir Begovic, Koscielny was afforded far too much space in the Stoke penalty area to nod home Sanchez's pinpoint cross.
Arsenal's explosive start was marred by an injury to French defender Debuchy who was carried off on a stretcher in the 13th minute after he landed heavily following a collision with Marko Arnautovic.
Sanchez, Arsenal's star player in an inconsistent season, added a brilliant second with a clever near-post finish following neat build up with Tomas Rosicky.
Stoke improved as halftime approached with Peter Crouch heading wide and drawing a routine save from goalkeeper David Ospina, starting his first Premier League game in place of Wojciech Szczesny.
Sanchez added his second and Arsenal's third shortly after the break with a fortuitous deflected freekick which squirmed past a despairing Begovic.
Santi Cazorla clipped the bar with an audacious chip before Stoke's Geoff Cameron had a goal correctly ruled out for offside.
Substitute Ozil blazed high and wide from a tight angle before Theo Walcott, another player returning from a lengthy injury, spurned a great opportunity with a weak finish.
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