Premier League: Giroud fires Gunners and downs Irons

Frank Dalleres
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ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger saluted a “perfect touch” from Olivier Giroud last night after the striker’s return to form helped earn his side a comeback win and reignited their Champions League charge.

Lukas Podolski contributed two typically emphatic finishes as the Gunners recovered from falling behind to a Matt Jarvis header, but the evening’s highlight was Giroud’s deft control for Arsenal’s second goal.

“It’s a fantastic goal. If the first touch is not perfect it’s difficult to score a goal – that first touch was perfect,” said Wenger, who revealed Mesut Ozil is to return against Hull on Sunday. His men now lead fifth-placed Everton by two points, at least until tonight, and he added: “We know we have to win our games and hope that Everton will slip up somewhere.”

A fifth loss in seven games leaves West Ham 11th, seven points off the bottom three, and boss Sam Allardyce urged them to “make sure the season doesn’t peter out” or risk losing their Premier League status.

Fatigue had been expected to hamper Arsenal, who endured 120 minutes of an FA Cup semi-final 72 hours earlier, but instead it was timidity that allowed West Ham to take the lead on 40 minutes. Antonio Nocerino surged into the box from the right and his attempted cross ricocheted invitingly skywards for Jarvis to nod into the net from inside the six-yard area.

A Hammers lead had only precipitated a Gunners victory in the teams’ previous three meetings, and so it proved again, Podolski sparking the revival just before the break. Stuart Downing’s clearance located Santi Cazorla, and the livewire midfielder split three defenders for the German to slot a crisp low strike across Adrian.

Sluggish lately, Arsenal re-emerged revitalised, while West Ham’s early buzz dimmed, and Giroud distilled the improvement with an exquisite touch for the second goal. Holding off Winston Reid to reach Thomas Vermaelen’s long ball, he killed it with his left foot before instantly rifling through the goalkeeper’s legs.

Giroud’s 20th of the season floored the visitors, and Podolski applied the knockout blow 13 minutes from time when Giroud crossed and substitute Aaron Ramsey craned his neck to guide a smart header that wrong-footed James Tomkins and fell kindly for the forward to lash high past Adrian.