Podolski brace sets up Arsenal win
Published 15/04/2014 | 21:57
Olivier Giroud's sublime finish and a double from Lukas Podolski gave FA Cup finalists Arsenal a 3-1 win over West Ham at the Emirates Stadium to move back up into the top four of the Barclays Premier League.
After a slow start following their nerve-shredding penalty shoot-out win over Wigan at Wembley on Saturday, the Gunners went behind to a scrappy goal from Matt Jarvis on 40 minutes.
However, German forward Podolski quickly levelled before half-time, with Giroud's superb take-down and close-range finish putting them in front on 55 minutes.
Another powerful strike from Podolski with 13 minutes left secured all three points which saw Arsene Wenger's side leapfrog Everton, who host Crystal Palace on Wednesday night.
West Ham, who had not played since the home defeat to Liverpool on April 6, started well as Mohamed Diame fired a good chance over from close range on 18 minutes.
Arsenal's big chance arrived on the half-hour mark when Santi Cazorla latched on to a stray pass in midfield and then fed Giroud, who beat the offside trap, but his scuffed finish was saved at full stretch by Adrian.
It proved costly as West Ham went ahead when Jarvis headed in from close range after Antonio Nocerino's shot was saved at the near post.
Arsenal, though, were level just before half-time as Podolski spun in the West Ham penalty area to drill a low shot into the bottom corner.
Giroud finally showed the perfect touch to put Arsenal ahead 10 minutes into the second half.
Thomas Vermaelen sent a high ball into the West Ham box, where Giroud held off both Winston Reid and Andy Carroll to take it down with one sublime left-foot touch before rolling his shot between the goalkeeper's legs.
Arsenal made sure of a crucial victory in the battle for Champions League qualification when Podolski crashed home his second goal of the night with 12 minutes left after a knockdown from Aaron Ramsey.
Arsenal welcomed back defender Laurent Koscielny from injury while Sweden midfielder Kim Kallstrom made his first start since arriving on a deadline-day loan from Spartak Moscow.
West Ham - without captain Kevin Nolan who failed a fitness test - made a bright start.
First, Diame's effort was charged down by Per Mertesacker before on-loan Milan winger Nocerino drilled in an angled shot which was blocked.
Arsenal slowly got into a spell of possession, and a low centre from Podolski down the left was just inches away from being tapped home by Giroud as he arrived at pace into the six-yard box.
On 15 minutes, Arsenal midfielder Tomas Rosicky, who missed the Wembley tie because of injury, was late on Andy Carroll and was cautioned.
Diame then fired the ball over from five yards after a cutback from Carroll following a corner.
Arsenal should have been ahead on 30 minutes.
Cazorla collected a loose ball in midfield and then fed Giroud on the edge of the West Ham penalty area. The France forward beat the offside trap and took the ball in his stride, only to then try to flick the ball into the bottom left corner with the outside of his left boot and Adrian was able to get across to make the save.
West Ham took the lead five minutes before the break.
Nocerino darted down the Arsenal right and into the penalty area, and his near-post shot was saved by Wojciech Szczesny. Jarvis reacted first to nod home from close range.
Arsenal looked for an immediate response as Kallstrom fired in an angled drive which Adrian pushed behind.
The hosts were level on 44 minutes.
Cazorla collected a poor clearance from Stewart Downing some 30 yards out, and fed Podolski in the left side of the West Ham box. The German spun his marker before drilling a low shot into the far corner.
Arsenal went into the lead 10 minutes into the second half.
Captain Vermaelen, deployed at left-back following injury to Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal, lobbed a deep pass from the halfway line into a crowded penalty area.
Both Reid and Carroll tried to block the France forward, who showed superb strength and then a sublime touch to kill the ball dead, before coolly slotting past the keeper with his right foot.
Adrian was called into action again on 61 minutes when he palmed away a curling free-kick from Podolski before Cazorla shaved the outside of the woodwork after cutting inside following a break down the right.
With 20 minutes left, Rosicky was replaced by Aaron Ramsey, just back from a long injury lay-off.
The Wales midfielder helped set up Arsenal's third goal on 78 minutes when he nodded Giroud's pass from the right through to Podolski, who turned to drill another fine finish past Adrian from 10 yards to wrap up victory.
While the manner of this response will have pleased Wenger, the Gunners boss knows there is still much work to do if they are to secure another shot at elite European football ahead of their Wembley trip on May 17 - which continues at FA Cup final opponents Hull on Easter Sunday.