Starting XI: Ospina, Maitland-Niles, Gabriel, Mustafi, Monreal, Xhaka, Ramsey, Iwobi, Lucas, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Giroud
Subs: Martinez, Jenkinson, Holding, The Jeff, DaSiva, Willock, Welbeck
Olivier Giroud’s late goal secured Arsenal’s safe passage to the FA Cup fourth round as they came from behind to beat Preston North End 2-1 at Deepdale.
The home side deserved their half time lead courtesy of Callum Robinson’s 7th minute strike, however, their failure to find a second proved costly.
Aaron Ramsey’s first goal of the season on 46 minutes ultimately tipped the balance of the tie the Gunners’ favour before the in-form Frenchman, captain for the evening, struck a winner with two minutes remaining.
After Tuesday evening’s late comeback against Bournemouth you might have expected Arsenal to be on their guard against Preston North End. Instead, they delivered another dopey first half showing.
Granted, there was an element of luck to Preston’s early opener – scored by Callum Robinson on six minutes after the ball had ricocheted into his path off Gabriel – but the way the Gunners allowed Aiden McGeady, on loan from Everton to showboat in midfield during the build-up was inexcusable. (1-1)
The home support, already fervent in their desire to witness an unlikely giant killing, exploded. Did Arsenal react? Not really.
Lucas had an effort on 15 minutes that deflected wide but it was Simon Grayson’s outfit that really should have extended their lead. First Mustafi clocked Robinson’s header with his shoulder, then, two minutes later, Robinson overcooked a cross to Jordan Hugill with the goal begging.
There were more chances for the home side. Ospina parried an effort from 25-yards, Marnick Vermijl hit wide, Daniel Johnson did likewise. Mustafi, having a very poor game, made two mistakes in quick succession that resulted in another Preston effort. Nacho Monreal had to rescue his teammates.
In between, lovely interplay between Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey manufactured an opening for the latter but the Welshman’s quick feet weren’t backed up by a decisive finish. Not long after, Giroud failed with a deft chip that went wide looking more like a cross than a shot on goal. Ramsey couldn’t beat Maxwell with a header.
The Gunners played the dying moments of the half with only ten men as Gabriel, on his 50th appearance for the Gunners, required stitches in his head after contact from a wayward elbow.
Inside a minute of the second half, Ramsey equalised for the Gunners. The Welshman, who’d not scored since March, didn’t dally on the edge of the box as he had earlier, instead thwacking a bullet of a shot into the top corner. (1-1)
You had the sense that Wenger had given his men a rocket during the break. They certainly looked more eager to close down their opposite men quicker, the passing sharper and the movement better.
Giroud should have had a penalty on 65 minutes. As the Frenchman tried to connect with a Xhaka cross, his shirt was clearly tugged and an arm thrown across him. Referee Bobby Madley saw nothing wrong with the interference and ignored further claims three minutes later when the striker clashed with defender Tom Clarke on the edge of the box.
A first-time Mustafi effort nearly converted a Chamberlain corner as the Gunners pressed for a winner. Giroud put the ball in the back of the net only for his effort to be ruled offside.
In the final five minutes Arsene Wenger sent on Danny Welbeck, making his first appearance since suffering knee ligament damage back in March, for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
It looked as though the Gunners might have to settle for a replay before Giroud found a winner on 88 minutes.
Lucas engineered the chance with a fine lay-off and the Frenchman, with the aid of a slight deflection, found the net with his left foot. In celebration he pounded his chest with vigour in front of the travelling support. (2-1)
There might have been a third for the Gunners as Welbeck stung the Preston keeper’s palms, but there was not to be a ‘Leicester’ moment for the England international.