ARSENAL 1-0 WEST BROM: GIROUD LEAVES IT LATE AS GUNNERS PICK UP VITAL WIN
Arsene Wenger’s side reignited their title hopes with victory over the Baggies as the France international celebrated his return to the commencement line-up with the victor
Olivier Giroud dragged Arsenal back to winning ways as his 86th-minute header snatched a 1-0 win over West Brom at Emirates Stadium.
Tony Pulis’ visitors held Arsene Wenger’s men at arm’s length during a dour first period on Monday but were indebted to goalkeeper Ben Foster after the interval.
The 33-year-old marked a fresh contract extension with West Brom by making impressive ceases from Giroud, Alex Iwobi and Alexis Sanchez, while the latter withal rattled the post.
It betokened Arsenal left it tardy to maintain their record of scoring in each of their 21 Premier League encounters with Albion – who ultimately rued Claudio Yacob failing to penalize Petr Cech’s misjudgement at a 70th-minute corner – as Giroud grappled with Gareth McAuley to steer a fine header over Foster from Mesut Ozil’s probing cross.
The tardy victor provided a welcome dose of seasonal goodwill for Wenger at the final whistle, something that had been destitute of from sections of the Arsenal faithful on the back of consecutive defeats to Everton and Manchester City.
In-form West Brom winger Matt Phillips got back to make a vital challenge on Hector Bellerin inside the visitors’ penalty area early on and Ozil – on his 100th Premier League appearance for Arsenal – had a ninth-minute shot blocked.
Arsenal centre-back Gabriel was auspicious to elude censure for leaping into a challenge on Phillips, curtailing an infrequent early attack for West Brom.
Sanchez, operating from the left flank as Giroud came in for the injured Theo Walcott to lead the line, arced a shot narrowly past the far post but Arsenal were struggling for clear chances as their opponents settled comfortably into the game.
Cech held a glancing header from Nacer Chadli afore his antithesis number Foster gainsaid Sanchez and a jinking Iwobi hoisted one over.
Iwobi had an endeavor blocked at close quarters by Yacob as Arsenal applied more sustained pressure afore half-time but the deadlock remained intact at the interval.
Four minutes into the second period, Foster engendered his best work of the match – getting down to Iwobi’s low volley and thwarting Sanchez on the follow-up. From the resulting corner, Sanchez barrelled into room on the edge of the six-yard box but crashed his shot against the right-hand upright.
The irrepressible Chile star appeared Arsenal’s most likely source of a breakthrough and physically contacted the ball cleverly around Chris Brunt to fizz a 20-yard drive over in the 56th minute.
Giroud was the next man to be frustrated by Foster when the goalkeeper propped out a boot at the cessation of an assailment that commenced when Fletcher sold Yacob short inside his own a moiety.
The ex-Manchester Amalgamated midfielder had a header deflected behind from a Phillips corner and the subsequent set-play visually perceived Cech’s customarily assured handling desert him, with Yacob wastefully unable to capitalise.
Wenger sent on Lucas Perez in an endeavor to unlock West Brom and the Spanish forward cut the ball across the six-yard box, where Foster did enough to put Giroud off.
But the France international determinately got the better of West Brom’s star performer to ascertain the deficit to bellwethers Chelsea remains at nine points.