Olivier Giroud provides sting in Arsenal’s comeback tale

Arsene Wenger’s side completed a late comeback from 3-0 down at Bournemouth

 Olivier Giroud celebrates after scoring  Arsenal’s  third goal during the Premier League match against Bournemouth  at Vitality Stadium. Photograph: Warren Little/Getty Images

Olivier Giroud celebrates after scoring Arsenal’s third goal during the Premier League match against Bournemouth at Vitality Stadium. Photograph: Warren Little/Getty Images

 

Bournemouth 3 Arsenal 3

Forget all the talk about Olivier Giroud’s scorpion kick – the real sting in the tail was delivered by the Frenchman 48 hours later as he scored an injury-time header that was nothing like as spectacular as his goal against Crystal Palace but every bit as important as Arsenal staged a remarkable comeback.

Arsène Wenger’s side were 3-0 down with a little over 20 minutes remaining and staring at the prospect of a humiliating defeat. “This is embarrassing,” chanted the travelling supporters after the outstanding Ryan Fraser, who tormented Héctor Bellerín, scored Bournemouth’s third.

Charlie Daniels and Callum Wilson had inflicted the earlier damage and it was hard to see a way back for Arsenal. Yet Alexis Sánchez sparked the revival with a close-range header and the balance of the game shifted further five minutes later when Lucas Pérez, with his first Premier League goal, volleyed home Arsenal’s second.

Bournemouth then lost Simon Francis to a straight red card following a challenge on Aaron Ramsey and it was a question of whether the home team could hold on. Arsenal, playing for the second time in two days, dug deep and grabbed an unlikely point when Giroud towered above Steve Cook to head in Granit Xhaka’s cross. What a turnaround.

Arsenal’s start was about as bad as it gets and once again Wenger was wearing that pained expression on his face. His side had conceded twice in the opening 20 minutes and, to make matters worse, both goals were the result of some desperately poor defending. To rub a little salt into the wound, Arsenal also lost Francis Coquelin to injury before the half-hour mark and, in another sign that everything was not going to plan, Sánchez and Ramsey were raging at one another.

The meltdown started with Daniels’s goal, which was superbly taken from Bournemouth’s point of view. Arsenal will have a different view and questions will be asked about Bellerín’s defending, as well as Ramsey’s failure to track the full-back, who ended up in so much space on the Bournemouth left.

Credit to Junior Stanislas, who picked Daniels out with a superb diagonal pass. Bellerín seemed to be distracted by Fraser’s run infield and by the time the ball was transferred over the Arsenal right back’s head, Daniels was cutting into the area. Daniels did the rest with a touch of class, sidestepping Bellerín’s weak attempt to tackle and beating Petr Cech at his near post.

Bellerín was having a bad night and picked up a yellow card later in the first half for a foul on the lively Fraser. By that stage Bournemouth had doubled their lead, with Fraser once again involved. Breaking into the left channel, the winger went down just inside the area under a challenge from Xhaka. It was naive and clumsy from Xhaka, who was never going to win the ball and always running the risk of giving away a penalty from the moment he placed his left arm on Fraser’s back. Wilson calmly dispatched his penalty kick and Bournemouth were coasting.

Arsenal were rattled, unable to cope with Bournemouth’s high tempo and the pace of the home team’s frontline. Eddie Howe seemed to have got his tactics spot on in that respect. Despite being without Benik Afobe, who was unable to play because Democratic Republic of Congo had not provided international clearance in the wake of the striker’s decision to withdraw from their Africa Cup of Nations squad, Howe still went with two up front and got his reward. Wilson and Joshua King troubled Arsenal time and again in behind.

Coquelin’s injury forced Wenger into a reshuffle that saw Ramsey drop deeper. Alex Iwobi took over as the advanced midfielder and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was introduced on the right flank.

Yet Arsenal struggled to play with any fluency. Ramsey’s left-footed drive was deflected narrowly wide and Sánchez’s swerving shot flew over, otherwise Bournemouth looked relatively comfortable. They could even have scored a third before half-time. Harry Arter, following more good work from the impressive Daniels, shot wide from the edge of the area and Stanislas was not far away with an effort from slightly further out.

It seemed inevitable there would be an Arsenal response after the restart. So it proved for a brief period as they started to dominate possession and create a couple of half-chances, yet it was Bournemouth who struck again. Daniels slid a pass into the left channel and although Bellerín was favourite to get to the ball first, Fraser not only caught up with the Arsenal defender but was too strong for him. Scampering clear after Bellerín had felt the force of Fraser’s shoulder charge, the Scot slipped the ball through Cech’s legs.

Then came the response. Sanchez nodded in at the far post after Giroud flicked on Oxlade-Chamberlain’s cross and Arsenal finally had a little bit of momentum. Five minutes later it was 3-2 following a fine piece of play involving Sánchez, Xhaka and Giroud that ended with Pérez spearing a lovely left-footed volley beyond Artur Boruc. Enter Giroud, who delivered the defining moment once again.

(Guardian service)

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