Football

Giroud comes to Arsenal's rescue in draw with Southampton

Arsenal boss Wenger laments poor start but is pleased with team's never-say-die spirit

Just when it looked like Arsenal were not going to make any headway against a disciplined Southampton side at St Mary's yesterday, substitute Olivier Giroud popped up with a header to rescue a 1-1 draw for the Gunners.

The striker left it late, too, superbly glancing his effort into the corner of Southampton's goal with just two minutes remaining to prevent his side from slipping into their second successive Premier League defeat.

SOUTHAMPTON ARSENAL
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(Charlie Austin 3) (Olivier Giroud 88)

But, surely, to Arsene Wenger, it was better late than never, as the crucial point kept the fifth-placed side within touching distance of the Premier League top four.

"It was a difficult game and I felt that we paid a heavy price for a slow start. We kept going. It was a game of high intensity," Wenger said.

"In the second half, it was all us but they defended well. We played with many strikers.

"Overall, the spirit was great. We were relentless to the end."

Arsenal, who lost at home to Manchester United the previous weekend, paid the price for their sluggish start, just as they did a week ago.

It took Charlie Austin only three minutes to put the hosts in the lead with a clipped finish past Petr Cech.

For Wenger, the line between disappointment and nightmare was a very fine one, as the Saints continued to pierce through the defensive chaos at will in the early stages.

The Frenchman believes last week's loss had affected his players mentally.

He said: "I felt that the Manchester United game played a big part in the head of our defenders. It was in their head and they were a bit apprehensive.

"That's why sometimes it's not too good to talk about a problem because you create a bigger one."

German Per Mertesacker, restored to the line-up in place of the injured Shkodran Mustafi, was left red-faced just three minutes into his return as he gifted Southampton the goal that allowed Mauricio Pellegrino's side to control the first half.

A poor clearance from Mertesacker ceded possession deep inside his own half and he then slipped as he attempted to make up for his mistake, allowing Dusan Tadic the time and space to pick out Austin's run into the box where the striker finished from 12 metres out.

Arsenal looked vulnerable to every early Southampton attack, and most of their first-half opportunities came on the break.

They pressed forward with more purpose after the restart, dominating possession, yet were unable to penetrate a home defence that was demonstrating far more resilience than the Gunners' own backline.

But Pellegrino's men continued to threaten on the counter-attack, with Ryan Bertrand squandering the best chance of the second half.

The misses eventually returned to haunt Southampton.

Giroud, 16 minutes after coming on, turned in Alexis Sanchez's cross to salvage a point which some will argue that Arsenal barely deserved.

Wenger also revealed his ire at the perceived time-wasting tactics of the Saints.

He said: "I must say I'm frustrated. In the second half, there was a lot of time-wasting, especially on the final ball on the counter-attack. It's very frustrating to give the advantage to the guy who made the foul.

"Not only were we called back with three against one, but when we played it quick, he (the referee) called the ball back without any reason and that was a huge advantage to Southampton." - WIRE SERVICES

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