A superb late strike from Olivier Giroud saved Arsenal’s blushes as they edged past Red Star Belgrade 1-0 in the Europa League on Thursday.
By Charlotte Marsh
The victory sees the Gunners maintain their perfect record in the competition as they top Group H with the maximum nine points, but had to wait for a moment of magic from Giroud to seal their third successive win.
Five minutes after Red Star had Milan Rodic sent off for a second yellow card in the 80th minute, the French striker produced an acrobatic overhead kick to snatch the win for Arsenal.
Thursday’s hosts remain second in the group behind the Gunners in top spot despite BATE Borisov’s 1-0 win against Cologne in the other fixture in Group H.
Arsenal made 10 changes to their defeat to Watford.. Mathieu Debuchy was included in the starting XI, making his first appearance in 11 months.
Chances were mostly at a premium during the first half, and it took 15 minutes for Arsenal to catch the first sight of goal. Theo Walcott collected a poorly-defended free-kick from the hosts before shooting from 10 yards out, but Red Star goalkeeper Borjan did well to save with his legs.
Red Star could have opened the scoring 11 minutes later when a corner was whipped in and club top scorer Richmond Boakye met it with a free header, but he could only direct his effort into the floor before it smashed onto the underside of the crossbar and went wide.
Arsenal started well in the second half and had a few good chances in quick succession. Both Walcott and Giroud dragged efforts wide just after the restart before Reiss Nelson saw a fierce shot palmed away at the near post by Borjan. Petr Cech was also called into action at the other end as he saved a stinging effort from Nenad Krsticic.
Red Star finished the game with 10 men when Rodic was sent off in the 80th minute. He picked up a second yellow card of the game after rising for the ball with Francis Coquelin and appearing to catch the Frenchman in the face. Coquelin went to ground as Rodic was given his marching orders.
Arsenal were able to make their man advantage count when they finally found the breakthrough five minutes later thanks to a sublime goal from Giroud. After some great play between Jack Wilshere and Walcott, the latter headed the ball across goal for the French striker who produced an acrobatic overhead kick to seal a late victory for the Gunners.
Arsenal are in action live on Sky Sports this weekend when they travel to fellow Europa League side Everton on Nissan Super Sunday.