Speaking the Nations Mind

Southampton 1-1 Arsenal: Late Giroud Header Saves Gunners’ Blushes


Arsenal managed to rescue a late point against Southampton on Sunday afternoon on the south coast thanks to an 88th minute Olivier Giroud header which cancelled out Charlie Austin’s second-minute opener. 

Despite the Gunners controlling the majority of possession throughout, it was the Saints whose performance stood out, fashioning a number of chances to put themselves out of sight. 

However, Mauricio Pellegrino’s men were forced to take home only a share of the spoils after they failed to fully capitalise on the the visitors’ shambolic defensive showing. 

The result now leaves Arsenal fifth, one point above Tottenham Hotspur in sixth and level pegging with Liverpool, who come up against Everton later in the day, for the final Champions League spot. 

It was the perfect opening for the hosts on a bitter day at the St Mary’s Stadium as Austin had his side ahead with just two minutes on the clock. 

Veteran defender Per Mertesacker’s sloppy surrender of possession deep inside his own half allowed Dusan Tadic to spring away from the German before releasing his striker, who tucked his effort over the top of Petr Cech after being afforded the time to take a touch and compose himself – marking his third goal in his last three matches against the Gunners. 

After going behind it would have been expected of the visitors to focus their best efforts in shoring up their defensive structure, but that theory could not have been further removed from what unfolded. 

Over the following five minutes, Austin was found on three separate occasions in a goal-scoring position, and if it were not for the heroics of Cech twice and the 33-year-old goalkeeper’s right-hand upright, Arsene Wenger’s men could quite easily have faced an insurmountable lead inside the opening 10 minutes. 

As it was, however, the deficit remained at one, and without the superb defensive efforts of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Arsenal could have found themselves back on level terms. 

The chance came from a Southampton corner, as Alexis Sanchez picked up the ball to start the stunning counter-attack in his own area before driving towards the opposition half and playing in Alexandre Lacazette, who had support either side with just a sole defender to beat. 

However, somehow Hojbjerg was able to backtrack the full length of the field and quash the danger moments before Gunners right-back Hector Bellerin pulled the trigger from inside the Saints 18-yard-box. 

But the Dane could do nothing about Aaron Ramsey finding space inside the area and dispatching his effort first time, however, fortunately for the hosts, custodian Fraser Forster could. 

The Welshman was fed from the right-hand side before attempting to bury his attempt into the bottom corner, but the England international was able produce a simply spectacular save to maintain his side’s advantage – a lead which they held onto going into half-time. 

Following the break it was clear the visitors were keen to assert a more aggressive game plan, enjoying long spells of possession in the Saints half. 

However, despite finding themselves on the back foot for the majority of the opening minutes, it was the hosts who fashioned the first chance of the second 45, with Oriol Romeu answering his supporters’ call to shoot from distance and rattling the top of Cech’s crossbar. 

But easily the best opportunity of the half fell to Southampton left-back Ryan Bertrand, who found himself one-on-one with the Gunners custodian with ample space to gallop into before woefully confusing his angles and dragging his attempt well wide of goal. 

As the tie ticked on it looked as though the 28-year-old’s fluff off his lines would matter little, but with just two minutes remaining, substitute Giroud pulled his side from the jaws of defeat with the deftest of headers past the sprawled Forster to rescue the north Londoners a point.