Late Giroud equaliser sees Arsenal gain share of the spoils after incredible comeback to draw 3-3 with impressive Bournemouth
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
An incredible football match on the south coast tonight saw Arsenal pull back a three goal deficit to draw 3-3 against Bournemouth.
The Cherries had raced into a two goal lead at half time after goals from Charlie Daniels and Callum Wilson, before netting a third through wideman Ryan Fraser.
Arsenal then clawed a goal back through Alexis Sanchez with 22 minutes remaining before Lucas Perez struck a sublime left-footed volley minutes later.
There was controversy after referee Michael Oliver then sent off Bournemouth right back Simon Francis with eight minutes remaining. Arsenal then exploited the extra space in a frenetic game with Olivier Giroud glancing in a header with seconds left of the six minutes injury time.
The equaliser sent Arsenal’s travelling fans into raptures along with the team as they gained an unlikely point in a game of contrasting emotions.
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On-loan Jack Wilshere was ineligible against his parent club and Marc Pugh missed out through injury.
Arsenal were again without midfielder Mesut Ozil, who missed the win over Crystal Palace through illness. Mohamed Elneny is at the Africa Cup of Nations for Egypt, while Theo Walcott and Kieran Gibbs were missing through injury.
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Arsenal came into the game on the back of two wins in five days with a pair of clean sheets, and with their – scorpion – tails up after a superlative Olivier Giroud strike against Crystal Palace on New Years Day. Never mind Giroud trending on twitter, he would have beaten one of Sir David Attenborough’s desert creatures on the hit series Planet Earth in a popularity contest this week following the goal Wenger called one of the top five of his tenure.
His team started with Aaron Ramsey as the number 10 as playmaker flanked by the livewire Alexis Sanchez wide left and the quietly impressive Alex Iwobi – fresh from a far less unheralded goal against Palace – but in a way just as important for his confidence as his colleagues.
The hugely impressive Eddie Howe had to cope without Wilshere but Junior Stanislas started the match in a lively fashion feeding the hugely underrated left back Charlie Daniels who his shot blocked on eight minutes. Stanislas then fired off a shot that Petr Cech gathered easily.
The livewire Stanislas then fed Callum Wilson with an angled through ball which saw Cech fly into the onrushing forward on 12 minutes. It could so have easily been a penalty but referee Michael Oliver deemed Cech to have had the first touch before he clattered Wilson.
Fewer than 180 seconds later a raking crossfield ball by Stanislas found Daniels on the left. Daniels, who had a fine season at left back for the Cherries last term showed a deft touch as he controlled the flighted ball, before cutting inside and beating an insipid Hector Bellerin challenge before firing past Cech to make it 1-0.
Stanislas, the former West Ham United academy lad twice capped by England U21s in 2009 before losing his way slightly was in impressive form at the Vitality as he fed the former Aberdeen youngster Ryan Fraser five minutes later.
Fraser showied good pace as he ran into the box before being brought down by a clumsy Granit Xhaka barge on the left hand side of the box - leaving referee Oliver with no option but to award a penalty this time.
Wilson, the 24-year-old former Coventry City forward then fired his penalty straight down the middle as Cech dived to his left to make the score 2-0 to the home team with barely 20 minutes gone.
Eleven months ago at the Vitality two first half goals in as many minutes saw Arsenal clinch the game 2-0 – a year on it was the home side who hit a pair in fewer than four minutes between them as it was their turn to lead their far more illustrious opponents.
In truth however, Howe’s team fully deserved their ascendancy through their high tempo pressing and movement which stretched Arsenal defensively.
It didn’t help when Coquelin had to go off before the hour mark with what looked like a hamstring strain. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came on for an enforced reshuffle which saw Ramsey drop back and Iwobi tuck inside to the centre.
Eight years ago this month Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe was 32 when he saved the Cherries from relegation from the Football League – after starting the season on minus 17 points. He got them promoted from the fourth tier the following season, and after a brief interlude in Lancashire at Burnley the prodigal son - who also played more than 250 matches in two spells between 1994 and 2007 - for this homely south coast club now with big ambitions he won them two further promotions in three years to land them in the promised land of the Premier League.
His attention to detail is well-known, and his preparation against opponents is second to none. He speaks well, lives for the game and is highly respected within the sport.
So you can’t but fail to see the comparisons between the 39-year-old Howe, and an experienced manager who clearly respects him deeply – Arsene Wenger.
Many are already intimating the way Wenger speaks highly of the younger man – who he clearly sees something of his thirty-something self in – indicates the Aylesbury-born journeyman defender forced to retire through injury at the tender age of 29 may be something of an appointment-in-waiting once Wenger does finally leave Arsenal.
Despite his team being overrun – on the back of two hugely damaging defeats in the North West before Christmas - the Alsace-born Frenchman appears no nearer to leaving anytime soon so the current Bournemouth manager may well have to bide his time – but that should be seen as a good thing for Howe as it will give him the chance to prove himself at the next level.
For if the hugely impressive Howe can add experience at the top end of the table and in European football over the next few seasons – by an uplift to a club with far bigger resources than Bournemouth - then his CV will show he can cope with the demands of a large club peopled by large egos. And if he does so he could and should be in contention to become Arsenal manager by the end of the decade.
For now Cherries fans should enjoy him while they can – for his star is very much in the ascendancy - as their team could and should have added to their two-goal total before the break. First as Wilson was denied by an excellently timed last-ditch interception by Shkodran Mustafi, while Harry Arter blazed over moments before the break.
But as referee Oliver blew for half time a shell-shocked Arsenal looked relieved to go in at the break only 2-0 up.
The loyal travelling Arsenal fans expected – deserved – a rousing second 45 minutes. What they got was more of the same from what has to be Eddie Howe’s finest game in charge of the Cherries - to start with.
On 55 minutes it could have been 3-0 as Arter hit a shot which ended up in the net. To the relief of the visiting defence it was disallowed for handball off Wilson,
But it was a warning the belagured Gunners backline failed to heed as the impish Fraser soon made it 3-0 as he powered down the left flank beating another insipid Bellerin half-challenge before slotting past Cech at the near post.
It could have been 4-0 moments later after the veteran Cech punched away a Wilson free kick.
The 1,243 away fans in a total of 11,202 in a packed out Vitality started to show their frustration by singing: ‘This is embarrasing’ – and in truth who could blame them.
But just as they had begin to abandon all hope and start heading for the exits Alexis Sanchez headed past Boruc after a Giroud flick on to make it 3-1 with 22 minutes remaining.
Five minutes later it was 3-2 after another Giroud assist – this time a flick on for substitute Lucas Perez.
There was still much to do as the former Deportivo man was to the left of the six yard box at an acute angle. But he scored a typical Arsenal goal – in as much as he showed flair, talent and technique to fire a sublime left-footed volley past Boruc.
It was also typical Arsenal because they were putting their fans through the wringer by giving them hope late on. Again.
Surely it was too much to expect another grandstand finish?
There was certainly more drama with eight minutes remaining when Bournemouth right back Simon Francis wrapped his leg around Ramsey on the half way line – prompting Oliver to award him a straight red card.
While it was certainly a foul, and one worthy of a yellow card, a straight red seemed rather harsh.
But Arsenal weren’t complaining as they desperately poured forward in the remaining few minutes. And they certainly weren’t when Giroud glanced in a Xhaka cross to make it 3-3 deep into the six minutes of time added on.
The travelling fans understandably went bonkers – as did the players – as referee Michael Oliver blew moments after to end a memorable if inexplicable game.
The headlines will show Arsenal clawing back a three goal deficit against a very impressive Bournemouth side.
The fact that questions should have been asked as to why Wenger’s men were 3-0 down remains for another day.
As does the growing clamour for Eddie Howe to become a future Arsenal manager as his team utterly outplayed Arsenal for an hour and were unlucky not to pick up three points.
Boruc, Francis, Cook, Gosling, Ake, Arter, Daniels, Wilson (Smith), King (Surman), Stanislas, Fraser (Smith)
Cech, Koscielny (Gabriel), Sanchez, Ramsey, Giroud, Iwobi (Perez), Monreal, Mustafi, Bellerin, Xhaka, Coquelin (Oxlade-Chamberlain)