Soccer

Lightning strike by Walcott puts Arsenal 3rd

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LONDON (AP)

Theo Walcott scored the quickest Premier League goal of the season as Arsenal beat Queens Park Rangers 1-0 Saturday to provisionally move third.

Walcott put the Gunners ahead with a shot from inside the area after only 20 seconds in the London derby at Loftus Road. His 13th league goal of the season was quicker than Robin Van Persie's strike for Manchester United against West Ham last November.

Arsenal moved two points ahead of both Chelsea and Tottenham in the race for Champions League spots. It has played two games more than Chelsea - which faces champions Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday - and one more than Spurs, which beat Southampton 1-0 earlier Saturday.

Loic Remy was denied by a fine save by Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny as Arsene Wenger's side held on at already relegated QPR for a fifth successive away win.

Walcott, playing in the central role he has long coveted, troubled Rangers throughout and hit the post midway through the first half, but the visitors played well within themselves ahead of matches with relegation-threatened Wigan and Newcastle which will help decide whether they finish in the top four.

Wenger's immediate focus is guiding Arsenal into the Champions League and his team began the match in fifth following Tottenham's win over Southampton.

Arsenal was seeking its first away win over QPR in the Premier League era and struck with the first attack.

Tomas Rosicky crossed towards Aaron Ramsey, who headed down to Mikel Arteta.

Arteta then threaded the ball through a static defence to Walcott, who had ghosted in behind and fired in a shot across goal and under Robert Green.

Arsenal's intricate play continued, but a QPR defence without the injured Christopher Samba and Jose Bosingwa - omitted from the squad a week after he was seen laughing at the end of the Reading draw - repelled their visitors' efforts.

QPR was also fashioning openings, but the final ball was often lacking as Arsenal survived and Rangers' wait for a goal extended into a sixth hour.

Walcott came close to his second when he breached the defence once more to latch on to Rosicky's pass and saw his shot turned on to the post by Green.

Bobby Zamora, back from suspension as one of four changes, then set up QPR's best chance of the half, but Park Ji-sung blasted over and then saw another effort blocked.

Szczesny was kept on his toes for much of the first half, but rarely called into action, before holding Tal Ben Haim's long-range strike as QPR finally managed to put an effort on target.

Stephane Mbia fired over and Andros Townsend curled a free-kick wide as Arsenal allowed QPR opportunities.

Townsend was Rangers' most lively player and twice troubled Szczesny early in the second half.

The goalkeeper first had to stretch to claw away a cross before Townsend's 25-yard shot stung his hands.

Monreal was then booked for tugging back the on-loan Spurs winger, but the Gunners managed to deal with the unconvincing threat from Rangers' nine other outfield players.

Shaun Derry, who replaced the ineffective Mbia at the interval, was booked for bringing down Rosicky, after 64 minutes as Arsenal pushed forward, but the Gunners rarely had to exert themselves.

Green parried clear a swerving drive from Santi Cazorla from the left channel and then turned Walcott's shot around the post after the forward had wriggled around Ben Haim.

Arsenal continued to threaten and Clint Hill cut out Lukas Podolski's dangerous cross towards Walcott, who then shot straight at Green.

Seven minutes from time, QPR broke, with Zamora crossing for Remy, whose shot on the turn appeared destined for the far corner, only for Szczesny to save at full stretch.

That was as good as it got for QPR as Arsenal saw out victory.

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