Premier League: Southampton 1 Arsenal 1
PUBLISHED: 14:14 10 December 2017 | UPDATED: 14:14 10 December 2017
PA Wire/PA Images
Olivier Giroud climbed off the bench to rescue a point for Arsenal at Southampton.
The French frontman struck two minutes from the end as Saints just failed to hang on to Charlie Austin’s early opener.
Austin had punished Arsenal for a calamitous beginning to the match with his fourth goal in his last three starts.
With just two minutes on the clock the striker collected a loose clearance from Per Mertesacker and fed Dusan Tadic.
Austin timed his run into the area perfectly, taking Tadic’s return ball in his stride and lashing it past Petr Cech.
Things could have got worse moments later when Tadic sent Austin through again, with Arsenal’s defence nowhere to be seen, but this time Cech blocked the striker’s low drive.
And there was more panic in the Gunners ranks with just seven minutes gone as Austin got in behind again, crashing his shot against a post although he was flagged offside.
Arsenal eventually recovered from their woeful start, but they struggled to find a way through a dogged 10-man Saints defence until Giroud’s late intervention.
Arsene Wenger had once again started with Jack Wilshere on the bench despite his sparkling Europa League display in midweek.
Granit Xhaka, the man keeping Wilshere out, set up a chance for Alexandre Lacazette, who turned in the area but fired sraight at Fraser Forster.
Lacazette was then denied by a timely challenge from Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg after a lightning counter-attack before Forster held Aaron Ramsey’s scuffed effort.
Forster has had his critics this season but the England World Cup hopeful made a fine save on the half-hour to tip a well-struck Ramsey drive around the post.
Southampton had another let-off before half-time when Maya Yoshida clattered Lacazette in the area after he had taken a shot but no penalty was given.
Their determination not to allow Arsenal back in was summed up when James Ward-Prowse and Jack Stephens double-teamed Sead Kolasinac, both sliding in to rob the winger in the penalty area.
Saints were inches from a second when Oriol Romeu took aim from 25 yards and crashed his shot against the crossbar.
Then Tadic fed Austin once again but the frontman’s attempt to lift the ball over Cech drifted wide.
Arsenal pushed for an equaliser and Alexis Sanchez stood over a free-kick 20 yards out only for Forster to punch his shot clear.
But with two minutes left Sanchez curled a cross into the area and Giroud rose above Virgil van Dijk to guide his header inside the far post.
Arsenal: Cech, Koscielny, Mertesacker (Welbeck 64), Monreal, Bellerin, Ramsey, Xhaka (Wilshere 69), Kolasinac, Ozil, Sanchez, Lacazette (Giroud 72). Unused: Ospina, Iwobi, Maitland-Miles, Coquelin.
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