Giroud late goal lifts Ar­se­nal

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

A late goal by Olivier Giroud on his first Premier League start of the sea­son gave Ar­se­nal a hard-fought 1-0 win over West Bromwich Al­bion yes­ter­day. Arsene Wenger’s side seemed cer­tain to slip fur­ther off the pace at the top of the league against an ul­tra-de­fen­sive Al­bion team as the game moved into its fi­nal stages at the Emi­rates Sta­dium. But Giroud’s header in the 86th minute pro­vided a wel­come re­turn to win­ning ways for Ar­se­nal af­ter painful de­feats on the road at Ever­ton and Manch­ester City.

Gun­ners boss Wenger had de­fended Me­sut Ozil, a scape­goat in some quar­ters for fail­ing to pull his de­fen­sive weight in those pre-Christ­mas set­backs. And he was re­warded for his faith as Ozil pro­vided the cross for Giroud’s win­ner to keep Ar­se­nal nine points be­hind lead­ers Chelsea.

It was clear from early on that Al­bion’s pri­or­ity was keep­ing a tight rein on Ar­se­nal’s at­tack and most of the first half fol­lowed a re­peated pat­tern­the hosts mov­ing the ball for­ward and at­tempt­ing to find gaps with­out much suc­cess.

Ozil had a shot blocked, Giroud sent a curl­ing ef­fort high and wide, and then failed to re­act quickly enough to pro­vide a tar­get when Hec­tor Bel­lerin beat the off­side trap and volleyed the ball across the penalty area.

When Ar­se­nal at­tempted to pass their way through, any in­ac­cu­racy or fail­ure of con­trol was pun­ished as de­fend­ers sur­rounded and out­num­bered at­tack­ers. Clau­dio Ya­cob in­ter­cepted as Alex Iwobi and Giroud at­tempted an in­tri­cate onetwo. Iwobi then de­cided to go it alone, but his shot drifted just over the bar af­ter he had drib­bled in from the left. In the open­ing five min­utes of the sec­ond half Ar­se­nal raised the pace and ur­gency of their game and might have scored twice.

AT­TACK­ING IN­TENT

First Iwobi’s low vol­ley forced a save from Al­bion goal­keeper Ben Fos­ter and as Alexis Sanchez rushed in to at­tempt to stab home the loose ball, Fos­ter knocked it away for a cor­ner.

From the re­sult­ing set piece, the ball reached Sanchez in­side the six-yard box but with his back to goal. The Chilean drib­bled away from goal to his left and shot on the turn but the ball re­bounded off the near post. Sanchez, full of at­tack­ing in­tent, then ran in from the left and shot fiercely for the top cor­ner, his drive finger-tipped away by Fos­ter.

Per­haps that in­spired Giroud to run past two de­fend­ers and hit a low, left-foot shot that Fos­ter had to keep out with his leg.

Al­bion had lit­tle to of­fer un­til Salomon Ron­don charged down the left, but Gabriel was able to out­pace him as he bore down on goal.

A sec­ond run by Ron­don, how­ever, forced the first of a se­ries of cor­ners that ended with Ya­cob blast­ing over the cross­bar af­ter Petr Cech had failed to make a clean catch.

At the other end Giroud’s out­stretched foot was inches away from reach­ing a low cross from Lu­cas Perez, and when Bel­lerin worked his way clear of de­fend­ers to meet a cross from the right, he could only head the ball over the bar.

It seemed Al­bion had done enough to earn a point un­til Ozil crossed from the right and Giroud, bump­ing and barg­ing de­fender Gareth McAu­ley, sent a header loop­ing over Fos­ter and in. Late sub­sti­tute Aaron Ram­sey al­most made it 2-0 when he ran onto Sanchez’s header only to hit his shot against Fos­ter’s legs. — AFP

LON­DON: West Bromwich Al­bion’s English de­fender Craig Daw­son (L) vies with Ar­se­nal’s Chilean striker Alexis Sanchez dur­ing the English Premier League foot­ball match be­tween Ar­se­nal and West Bromwich Al­bion at the Emi­rates Sta­dium in Lon­don yes­ter­day. — AFP

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