STOKE-ON-TRENT, UK: Olivier Giroud scored twice as Arsenal won 4-1 at Stoke City on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) to maintain manager Arsene Wenger’s hopes of a top-four finish and Champions League qualification.
Arsenal endured an anxious spell in the second half after Stoke substitute Peter Crouch reduced the arrears to 2-1 with a goal scored using his arm that was allowed to stand.
But eventually Wenger’s side turned in a clinical display to move to within a point of fourth-place Liverpool.
Giroud scored the opening goal on 42 minutes as Arsenal scythed their way through the Stoke defense impressively.
Francis Coquelin picked out the run of overlapping wing-back Hector Bellerin and his low cross eluded a couple of defenders to pick out the unmarked Giroud, who converted from all of two yards.
Any doubt about the game’s outcome looked to have disappeared when Arsenal doubled their lead through Mesut Ozil on 55 minutes with a stunningly simple goal.
Ozil started the move with a short pass to Alexis Sanchez before darting into the area, collecting the Chilean’s return pass and lifting the ball over Jack Butland.
Two goals behind, Stoke finally burst into life after manager Mark Hughes threw on Saido Berahino and Crouch as forward replacements.
After a spell of aerial pressure, Marko Arnautovic darted down the left on 67 minutes and his cross was turned in by Crouch, whose handball went unnoticed by the match officials.
The atmosphere at Stoke’s ground lifted dramatically as the home support sensed the chance of an equalizer.
But Arsenal showed resolve and took just nine minutes to restore their two-goal cushion and secure a fifth victory in their last six games.
Bellerin again took up an advanced position and found Sanchez, who drove into the area before unleashing a low shot that went in off the far post via a deflection off Ryan Shawcross.