Heart­breaker!

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - FRONT PAGE - CHIEF FOOT­BALL WRITER at Deep­dale

Giroud to the res­cue again with an­other late strike as Gun­ners come from be­hind – and it’s Millwall who score the big up­set of the FA Cup third round

It took Olivier Giroud a long time to re-es­tab­lish him­self in the plans of Arsène Wenger this sea­son but hav­ing done so the French­man is now the man to whom Ar­se­nal turn when they need a big goal in a big game, or even an FA Cup win­ner in Lan­cashire just in the nick of time.

When he stepped for­ward to notch the win­ner against Pre­ston North End af­ter 89 min­utes of third-round ac­tion, Giroud was em­bark­ing on his second res­cue act in the space of five days fol­low­ing the come­back at Bournemouth on Tues­day. At Deep­dale, Giroud had the cap­tain’s arm­band and the fire in his belly to win a tie in which Ar­se­nal had fallen be­hind.

Re­called to the team against West Bromwich Albion on Box­ing Day, the striker scored in that game and the sub­se­quent three in­clud­ing the first goal in the 2-0 win over Crys­tal Palace on New Year’s Day, then Bournemouth and now Pre­ston. There was no repeat of the cel­e­bra­tion with which Giroud marked his equaliser against Bournemouth, and that was prob­a­bly for the best, but no ques­tion­ing his com­mit­ment.

There was no Alexis Sánchez in the squad – the Chilean be­ing given the week­end off whether he liked it or not – and with five changes from the side that started the Bournemouth game Giroud was made cap­tain. Wenger said: “He [Giroud] went through a pe­riod where he was in dis­com­fort as he didn’t play and dur­ing this pe­riod, which was quite long, he kept his fo­cus and worked so I thought he has shown lead­er­ship qual­i­ties, which is why I made him cap­tain.”

As for Pre­ston, the 2017 team of this fa­mous old club, 11th in the Cham­pi­onship, did their her­itage proud with an as­sertive first-half per­for­mance. Si­mon Grayson picked a 4-4-2 for­ma­tion and the old-fash­ioned strike part­ner­ship of Jor­dan Hugill and Cal­lum Robin­son caused ma­jor prob­lems for Ar­se­nal in the first half, with the lat­ter open­ing the scor­ing.

It was a dif­fer­ent story in the second half af­ter what Wenger ad­mit­ted were some strong words at half-time. Aaron Ram­sey’s equaliser came within the first minute and af­ter that it was al­ways a tough task for Pre­ston.

“Yes, I was an­gry [at half-time],” Wenger said. “We are a top-level Premier League side and we were dom­i­nated in the first half. Pre­ston had chances and we were just not at the pace that the game de­manded. We didn’t want to go home and be out of the Cup.”

There was a long-awaited re­turn for Danny Wel­beck, a late sub­sti­tute for Ar­se­nal at a club where he was once on loan and af­ter eight months away fol­low­ing knee surgery he was ap­plauded on by both sets of fans. With one of the fi­nal at­tacks of the game, Wel­beck struck a trade­mark big hit from the edge of the area which the Pre­ston goal­keeper, Chris Maxwell, only just man­aged to push over the bar.

The Pre­ston goal came af­ter seven min­utes, when Aidan McGeady spun through a full 360-de­gree dou­ble drag­back, bam­boo­zling the Ar­se­nal mid­field and giv­ing him­self the space to play the ball out to Hugill on the right. The 24-year-old striker got the ball across goal for Robin­son to fin­ish.

The pair of them were an ef­fec­tive part­ner­ship, Robin­son hav­ing had the more gilded route into pro­fes­sional foot­ball via Aston Villa’s academy and a run in the Eng­land ju­nior teams dur­ing his teenage years. In mid­field Pre­ston had an­other for­mer ju­nior Eng­land in­ter­na­tional, the 22-year-old for­mer Manch­ester United mid­fielder Ben Pear­son, who looked at home in the com­pany.

Along­side Daniel John­son, an­other for­mer Villa boy, the pair of them were out­stand­ing in mid­field in the first half and bal­anced nicely with the ex­pe­ri­ence of McGeady and Paul Gal­lagher on the wings. An­other header from Robin­son was cleared by Shko­dran Mustafi and the German was obliged to do the same later on when Gal­lagher lobbed David Ospina.

Wenger said that Héc­tor Bellerín was in­jured and Ains­ley Mait­land-Niles was used in his place. He strug­gled at times against McGeady.

Ar­se­nal played the last few min­utes of the first half with 10 men af­ter Gabriel re­tired to the changing rooms for treat­ment to a head in­jury.

By half-time Ar­se­nal had barely man­aged a sight of goal, apart from one chip from Giroud which might have been a cross – per­haps the most gen­er­ous ex­pla­na­tion for the fact it was so way­ward it did not go out for a goal-kick. Wenger got the ap­pro­pri­ate re­sponse within a minute. Ram­sey scored his first goal of the sea­son with a right-footed drive from Alex Iwobi’s lay-off, which the Welsh mid­fielder struck on the edge of the Pre­ston penalty area.

It was a pity for the home team that they had not been able to turn all that first-half pos­ses­sion into bet­ter scor­ing chances and as Ar­se­nal be­gan to take the ini­tia­tive, the second half stretched out far in front of Pre­ston.

The win­ner came from a long ball from the Ar­se­nal right struck to­wards Giroud at the back post, where the French striker won the ini­tial header.

There was a fine back-heel from Lu­cas Pérez as the ball looked to be go­ing out of play and Giroud was in the right place to force the re­turn in at the near post in front of the away fans.

Wel­beck very nearly added a second with a fine shot and that was it for Pre­ston, who sim­ply did not have the qual­ity in at­tack to make a second break­through once Hugill and Robin­son had tired. As Bournemouth proved, even three goals are not nec­es­sar­ily enough against Ar­se­nal.

Late show: Olivier Giroud cel­e­brates af­ter his 89th-minute win­ner helped Ar­se­nal come from be­hind to beat Cham­pi­onship side Pre­ston at Deep­dale yes­ter­day

Now hear this: Cal­lum Robin­son cel­e­brates af­ter putting Pre­ston ahead

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