Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger revealed that Olivier Giroud had prophesied he would net his side’s winner after the Gunners maintained their perfect start to their Europa League campaign with victory over Red Star Belgrade.
Frenchman Giroud conjured a magical strike with five minutes remaining, moments after the hosts had been reduced to 10 men following the dismissal of defender Milan Rodic.
The Gunners are top of Group H on nine points, five points clear of BATE Borisov, who beat FC Koln 1-0, and on course to reach the tournament’s knockout phase. Their next clash in the competition is the reverse fixture against Red Star at Emirates Stadium on 2 November.
“Well at some stage he [Giroud] came to the touchline and told me he would score,” said Wenger, who made nine changes to the side which lost 2-1 to Watford on Saturday. “I don’t know how he knew. It was certainly more than I did.
“But I think that’s Olivier Giroud. He keeps belief when it’s tough and that’s why maybe he scores at moments you don’t necessarily expect him to score.”
Arsenal entered the clash with questions about their mental resilience again being raised. Watford striker Troy Deeney claimed at the weekend that the Gunners lacked “cojones”, and Wenger was happy that his side provided the perfect repost.
“Overall I think what is remarkable is the spirit that we have shown, fighting together in a game that was very physical,” added Wenger.
Red Star had scored in 56 of their previous 57 home matches and came close to opening the scoring after 26 minutes as a downward header from striker Richmond Boakye struck the crossbar.
The hosts threatened again moments later when a crisp low strike from winger Nemanja Radonjic was repelled by Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech.
Proceedings appeared to be meandering towards a stalemate until Arsenal were given renewed impetus inside the final 10 minutes as Red Star full-back Rodic was sent off; his second yellow card a result of an alleged elbow on Francis Coquelin.
Arsenal’s winner arrived in the 85th minute as Giroud improvised and sent an inventive overhead flick beyond Red Star goalkeeper Milan Borjan following penetrative work from Jack Wilshere and a Theo Walcott header.