Giroud sucker punch earns Arse­nal draw at Man Utd

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MANCH­ESTER: Sub­sti­tute Olivier Giroud con­verted Arse­nal’s first ef­fort on tar­get in the 89th minute to res­cue a smash-and-grab 1-1 draw for Arsene Wenger’s side at Manch­ester United yes­ter­day.

Juan Mata’s 69th-minute strike looked to have earned Jose Mour­inho’s United a much-needed win, only for Alex Oxlade-Cham­ber­lain to tee up his fel­low sub­sti­tute Giroud for a last-gasp leveller.

The re­sult pre­served Arse­nal’s six-point lead over six­th­place United, but left United fall­ing even fur­ther be­hind the ta­ble lead­ers. Arse­nal re­main with­out a league win at Old Traf­ford in 10 years and Wenger has still not beaten Mour­inho in the league in 12 at­tempts.

But this was a draw that will have felt like a win for the French­man, par­tic­u­larly af­ter Mour­inho provoca­tively cited his 12-year wait for a league ti­tle in the build-up to the game.

Giroud’s goal, only his fourth of the sea­son, ex­tended Arse­nal’s un­beaten run to 17 games in all com­pe­ti­tions and left United with just two wins from their last nine league fix­tures. Mour­inho, who shared an icy handshake with Wenger be­fore and af­ter the match, must now rouse his play­ers for Thurs­day’s key Europa League home game with Feyeno­ord. Alexis Sanchez came through a fit­ness check on a trou­ble­some ham­string to boost Arse­nal and he was his usual, buzzing self in the early stages, steer­ing a header off-tar­get from Theo Wal­cott’s flick-on. But with Michael Car­rick an­chor­ing United’s mid­field again and An­to­nio Va­len­cia, back from a frac­tured arm, sup­ply­ing drive from right-back, there was poise and pur­pose to the hosts’ foot­ball.

VA­LEN­CIA PENALTY CLAIM

Car­rick’s pres­ence al­lowed Paul Pogba to get for­ward and he gave a glimpse of his abil­ity by steam­rol­ler­ing Fran­cis Co­quelin and drilling a cross into the box that Arse­nal man­aged to clear.

United felt they should have had a penalty in the 35th minute when Va­len­cia nut­megged Na­cho Mon­real and then went down as the Spa­niard leaned across him, but ref­eree An­dre Mar­riner said no. Pogba then teed up Mata, who had ear­lier bent a free-kick wide, for a low shot that Petr Cech pushed around the post and the Arse­nal goal­keeper also saved three times from An­thony Mar­tial. Arse­nal did not reg­is­ter a shot of note in the first half, but as United’s mo­men­tum waned af­ter half-time, Mour­inho turned to his bench.

Wayne Rooney, aim­ing to re­deem him­self from late-night carous­ing while on Eng­land duty last week­end, and Da­ley Blind came on, with Mar­tial and Mat­teo Darmian mak­ing way. Slowly, United picked up the pace and with 21 min­utes re­main­ing they made the break­through.

Pogba’s pass sent An­der Her­rera har­ing to­wards the by­line on the right and from his cut-back, Spanish com­pa­triot Mata ar­rived to send the ball past Cech with a sump­tu­ously crisp side-foot ef­fort. Wenger in­tro­duced Giroud for Mo­hamed El­neny, which saw Sanchez, whose in­flu­ence had dimmed, with­draw to the left flank, and Granit Xhaka also en­tered the fray.

Mour­inho’s men con­tin­ued to dom­i­nate, Mar­cos Rojo head­ing wide from Blind’s deep cross, only for OxladeCham­ber­lain to skin Marcus Rash­ford be­fore cross­ing for Giroud to snatch an un­likely point. — AFP

MANCH­ESTER: Arse­nal’s Petr Cech, cen­tre, saves a shoot dur­ing the English Premier League soc­cer match be­tween Manch­ester United and Arse­nal at Old Traf­ford in Manch­ester, Eng­land, yes­ter­day. —AP

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