(REUTERS) - Second-half substitute Olivier Giroud rescued Arsenal with a late equaliser in a 1-1 draw at St Mary’s on Sunday (Dec 10) after Southampton had looked like holding on for all three points
The France international, who replaced compatriot Alexandre Lacazette in the 72nd minute of a lively game, scored two minutes from full time with a glancing header off an Alexis Sanchez cross.
Southampton had made Arsenal sweat until then with Charlie Austin grabbing a fourth goal from his last three league starts with a third-minute shot past Petr Cech after being fed through by Dusan Tadic following a defensive howler by Gunners centre-back Per Mertesacker.
It was the 17th time Giroud has scored as a substitute for Arsenal, equalling Norwegian Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s record with Manchester United for most goals scored off the bench for a single club.
If the draw remained a lost opportunity for the Gunners, the goal at least staved off a second successive league defeat after a stinging 1-3 loss to Manchester United at the Emirates last weekend.
“Last week had an influence on today’s game,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, whose side played in the Europa League on Thursday (Dec 7), told Sky Sports television.
“They wanted to start strong but it took us time to get into the game again,” added the Frenchman, who criticised the amount of time-wasting in the match.
“I think he (Giroud) has come back into a very good shape, he’s shown that today again. He’s mentally extremely strong as well. It’s a remarkable achievement what he has done again today.”
Arsenal moved up to fifth place, behind Liverpool on goal difference, but 14 adrift of leaders Manchester City who were playing Manchester United later in the day.
“We started really well, got the goal. Should have got the second really,” said Austin, who had a low shot from the right well saved by Cech minutes after scoring.
“Against Arsenal, you give them one chance, and the big man’s come on and scored. It’s just one of those things... we take away a point from here but we should have taken all three.”
Austin also hit the post with another effort in the eighth minute with the Arsenal defence in disarray but the linesman flagged for offside. Arsenal worked their way back, picking up the tempo as Southampton were forced on the defensive but without giving goalkeeper Fraser Forster much to worry about.
Southampton were still dangerous against the run of play, however, with Spanish defensive midfielder Oriol Romeu firing in a long-range shot that smacked the crossbar in the 62nd minute.
Arsenal took off Mertesacker shortly afterwards, bringing on Danny Welbeck to add firepower, but Southampton could still feel unlucky not to increase their advantage.
Ryan Bertrand had a golden opportunity when he shook off Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny but lofted the ball high over Cech, while Austin saw another opportunity trickle past the post.