Giroud grabs a brace as Arsenal overcome Southampton
PUBLISHED: 17:10 23 November 2013 | UPDATED: 13:31 24 November 2013
PA Wire/Press Association Images
Premier League: Arsenal 2 Southampton 0
Olivier Giroud’s double took Arsenal four points clear as they returned to winning ways with a hard-fought victory over Southampton at Emirates Stadium.
The French striker capitalised on a howler from Saints goalkeeper Artur Boruc to open the scoring midway through the first half and added a late penalty to secure victory.
But Arsene Wenger’s side were made to work hard by a Saints side who controlled the midfield for much of the game and showed why they had lost just once in the league prior to Saturday.
Jack Wilshere was desperately unlucky not to put the Gunners in front after 10 minutes, evading Luke Shaw and floating a delicate chip over Boruc, only for the ball to strike the post and rebound into the keeper’s hands.
And the same post came to Southampton’s rescue again soon afterwards as Mesut Ozil crossed for Aaron Ramsey, whose impudent back-heeled volley left Boruc helpless but grazed the woodwork.
But the Polish keeper could have done far, far better when he fielded a routine back-pass from Nathaniel Clyne midway through the first half.
Having successfully executed a dragback to shield the ball from Giroud, Boruc inexplicably tried to do it again, allowing the grateful striker to dispossess him and slot into the unguarded net.
However, it was Arsenal’s Polish custodian Wojciech Szczesny who was the busier as the first half drew to a close, tipping Adam Lallana’s left-foot volley over after Mikel Arteta had miscued his clearance.
And Szczesny preserved the Gunners’ lead with another save, diving to his right to scramble away a Jay Rodriguez effort as the visitors pressed for an equaliser.
Southampton started the second half well, with Morgan Schneiderlin teeing up skipper Lallana for a drive that was struck firmly but saved comfortably by Szczesny.
The Gunners regained their stride without seriously threatening to add a second goal, although Ozil forced a save from Boruc and Bacary Sagna’s cross found Wilshere, who was unable to get the necessary power on his header.
Theo Walcott made his return from injury with a 20-minute run-out in place of Santi Cazorla and Ramsey set him up for a drive that fizzed fractionally wide.
If anything, Walcott’s former club had the better of the later exchanges as Rickie Lambert and Victor Wanyama both went close – but their hopes were finally ended four minutes from time.
Referee Mark Clattenburg ruled that Jose Fonte had held Per Mertesacker back at a corner and Giroud stepped up to do the honours with a confident left-foot finish from the penalty spot.
Arsenal: Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Ramsey, Arteta (Rosicky 74); Ozil (Monreal 81), Wilshere, Cazorla (Walcott 70); Giroud.