By Patrick Surlis
Last Updated: 13/05/17 7:39pm
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Olivier Giroud scored twice as Arsenal beat Stoke 4-1 at the bet365 Stadium on Saturday to keep pace in the race for a top-four spot in the Premier League.
The France striker put Arsenal ahead (42) and Mesut Ozil made it two (55) before Peter Crouch’s controversial handball halved the deficit (67).
But the excellent Alexis Sanchez restored the visitors’ two-goal advantage (76) and Giroud added late gloss with their fourth (80).
Alexis Sanchez scored before he was substituted with an apparent injury
Manchester City’s 2-1 victory over Leicester earlier on Saturday put pressure on Arsene Wenger’s side but they responded to move within one point of fourth-placed Liverpool.
Jurgen Klopp’s side face West Ham at the London Stadium on Nissan Super Sunday.
Defeat for Stoke in their final home match of the season means they have won just once since March 4 and are guaranteed to finish in the bottom half of the table.
The only concern for Wenger will be the apparent injury picked up by Sanchez, who limped off shortly after scoring his 50th Premier League goal and may now be a doubt to face Sunderland on Tuesday.
The Gunners boss made four changes from the 2-0 victory at Southampton but his side looked settled from the start.
They dominated the first half and deservedly took the lead through Giroud three minutes before half-time.
Preferred to Danny Welbeck after scoring at St Mary’s, he tapped home after a smart run and cross by Hector Bellerin.
The Gunners had earlier gone close through Nacho Monreal when the Spaniard’s header rattled the woodwork and bounced clear.
Rob Holding and Marko Arnautovic in action at the bet365 Stadium
Shkodran Mustafi and Sanchez both had chances too and such was Arsenal’s control, Stoke left the field at the break to boos from the home crowd.
Their woes deepened shortly after the interval as Sanchez and Ozil combined beautifully to double the visitors’ lead.
The Chile forward threaded an inch-perfect pass to Ozil, who neatly lifted his finish over the advancing Jack Butland.
Stoke finally rallied and should have pulled one back when Mame Biram Diouf nodded wide from Marko Arnautovic’s low cross.
But they made their pressure count minutes later, albeit in controversial circumstances.
Arnautovic was again the creator as he burst past Rob Holding and crossed to the near post, where Crouch guided home via his right hand.
It looked set to tee up a frantic final 20 minutes but Sanchez put the game beyond the hosts with the Gunners’ third of the evening.
Having picked up a thigh injury and signalled to the bench, he found the far corner of Butland’s net with his final act before being substituted.
Giroud made the points safe with his second of the match with 10 minutes remaining, turning in Aaron Ramsey’s excellent delivery.
The Welsh international also went close himself and Petr Cech saved well from Geoff Cameron as Arsenal passed a significant test of their top-four credentials.
Stoke: Butland (5), Johnson (5), Shawcross (4), Martins Indi (5), Pieters (4), Whelan (4), Cameron (5), Allen (5), Arnautovic (5), Diouf (4), Shaqiri (4)
Subs used: Berahino (5), Crouch (5), Sobhi (5)
Arsenal: Cech (7), Holding (7), Mustafi (7), Koscielny (7), Bellerin (8), Coquelin (7), Xhaka (7), Monreal (7), Sanchez (9), Giroud (8), Ozil (8)
Subs used: Ramsey (7), Walcott (6), Welbeck (6)
Man of the match: Alexis Sanchez
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