Arsenal forward Olivier Giroud came off the bench to score a 88th-minute header to ensure the Gunners managed to hold Southampton to a 1-1 draw in their Premier League tie at St Mary’s Stadium on Sunday.
Charlie Austin had continued his rich vein of goalscoring form when the Saints’ forward gave the hosts a deserved lead in the third minute and truth be told, Mauricio Pellegrino’s men were unfortunate not to score a few more in the opening exchanges.
After a shambolic defensive performance in last week’s 3-1 loss to Manchester United, one would have thought Arsene Wenger’s side had learnt their lesson but Dusan Tadic opened up their defence to set up Austin, who beat Petr Cech with a deft finish to notch his fourth goal in as many games.
Austin hit the post soon after, but the linesman had his flag up as the hosts surged forward and for the second time in a week, the Gunners were slow starters.
Wenger’s men gradually came into the tie, but Southampton keeper Fraser Forster was in top form and kept the likes of Alexandre Lacazette at bay for the first 45 minutes thanks to his massive 6’7 frame.
The second period started as the first ended, with Arsenal applying pressure on the hosts as they were literally camped in their half.
With the Saints defending so deep, the Gunners had time and space, but struggled to break down a team that had 10 men behind the ball almost every time.
Oriol Romeu came close to doubling Southampton’s lead, in fact, as the Saints almost caught Arsenal cold on a counter two minutes after the hour-mark.
Wenger threw on Danny Welbeck for veteran defender Per Mertesacker in a bid to find the equaliser and very soon, Jack Wilshere and Olivier Giroud were on the pitch as well.
And the former, as is his wont, proved to the the saviour for the Gunners once again as he nodded in Alexis Sanchez’s cross past Forster with two minutes remaining to prevent the North Londoners from falling to their second league defeat in a row.
Arsenal remain in fifth place, level on points with Liverpool but are behind them due to an inferior goal difference and the Reds could go three points clear if they beat Merseyside rivals Everton later on Sunday.
For Southampton, the draw means that they remain winless in their last three games and while they move to 10th in the league table, ahead of Everton, the Toffees could reclaim 10th spot if they manage to avoid defeat against Liverpool.