Football: Giroud double keeps Arsenal on course for top four finish

NEWCASTLE, United Kingdom (AFP) - Olivier Giroud tormented Newcastle yet again as he scored twice for Arsenal in a 2-1 away win that cemented their place in the Premier League's top four on Saturday.

France striker Giroud has now scored eight times in his last six games against Newcastle, who have not achieved a home win against Arsenal in the past decade and have now lost their last seven meetings with Arsene Wenger's side.

The Gunners remain third, one point behind second placed Manchester City and six ahead of fifth placed Liverpool as the battle to qualify for the Champions League approaches its finale.

Yet, what appeared likely to be an embarrassing day for Newcastle when they went two goals behind inside the opening 28 minutes, ended with an ovation from their fans after a splendid second-half revival which warranted more than a solitary goal from Moussa Sissoko.

It had looked bleak for United after they went behind in the 24th minute when they needlessly conceded a free-kick which was headed on by Danny Welbeck before Giroud's knee diverted it past goalkeeper Tim Krul.

Then Welbeck was off-target with a volley before Giroud added his second goal from a corner taken by Santi Cazorla and headed inside an unguarded post by the forward who so relishes facing United.

Newcastle had already been warned because Arsenal had gone close to the opening goal when Krul saved from Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey's first touch betrayed him after he was set up by Giroud.

Such early domination by Arsenal did not come as a surprise to Newcastle's supporters, who had been warned beforehand of the difficulties facing their manager John Carver.

Injuries and suspensions left him with only 13 senior outfield players and his team inevitably possessed a makeshift look, with midfielder Jack Colback forced to play at left-back and right-back Daryl Janmaat starting at centre-half for the first time in his career.

Arsenal made three changes from the team that won at Monaco in midweek.

TOTAL CONTROL

They still went out of the Champions League on away goals despite that victory and, worryingly for Newcastle, had performed well in the past two seasons following their departure from that competition.

They were to continue that trend with ease as Giroud's goals gave them total control and, in truth, it seemed to be only a question of how many Arsenal would score after the second one went in.

However, they failed to add further goals before the interval, leaving Newcastle in a better position than four years ago again when they trailed 4-0 in the same fixture.

On that occasion, they fought back to draw 4-4 and Newcastle hinted at a similar revival in the opening stages of the second-half.

They pulled back a goal inside three minutes when Ryan Taylor and Remy Cabella combined down the right flank before the Frenchman's cross was steered in by Sissoko, the midfielder who is regularly linked with Arsenal.

And they went in search of an equaliser with an appetite that had been largely absent in the opening half when no Newcastle fan could have predicted such a fightback.

Yoan Gouffran directed a 61st minute chance straight at keeper David Ospina and Sissoko was only denied a second goal by a point-blank save by the keeper from his glancing header.

Janmaat was also close with an ambitious effort from more than 30 yards and Cabella almost opened the Arsenal defence with a surging run that suggested the France midfielder is coming to terms with the demands of the Premier League.

Arsenal's response was muted, although Krul did well to block a 79th minute shot from Welbeck after the England striker outpaced Mike Williamson on his way inside the United area.

And Newcastle were only denied a deserved equaliser when the outstretched leg of Ospina diverted a shot from Ayoze Perez in the 87th minute. It proved to be Newcastle's final chance.