Olivier Giroud inspires three-goal flurry in Chelsea comeback victory over Southampton

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Olivier Giroud hopes to have kickstarted his Chelsea career after coming off the bench to inspire an eight-minute turnaround from 2-0 down to win 3-2 at Southampton on Saturday with his first Premier League goals for the club.

The French international striker has largely struggled to make an impact since his deadline day move from Arsenal in January, putting his place at the World Cup at risk.

“I’ve been through some difficulties in my career, but I always try to come back stronger and it happened today,” said Giroud.

“The most important thing is to never give up, believe in our quality, play our game and I am proud of what we have done today.”

Defeat is another body blow to Saints’ chances of avoiding relegation as they remain rooted in the bottom three when for so long they seemed set for a first home win in the Premier League since November.

Dusan Tadic and debutant Jan Bednarek put the hosts in command, but Giroud struck either side of Eden Hazard‘s equaliser to cut the gap on Liverpool and Tottenham in the fight for a top-four finish and Champions League football next season to seven points.

“As long as it is mathematically possible we will believe we can reach the top four,” added Giroud. “We have got five finals to play, after that we will see.”

The two sides will meet again in the FA Cup semi-finals next weekend, and Southampton will do well to raise themselves for cup glory with their place in the Premier League next season looking ever more precarious.

“As has been the case all year apparently we’ve got a soft underbelly,” said Saints boss Mark Hughes, whose three Premier League games in charge have now all ended in defeats. “When the momentum shifts against us we can’t get a platform and wait until the momentum swings our way again.”

Southampton had got off to a perfect start thanks to a former Chelsea player as Ryan Bertrand burst past Cesar Azpilicueta before squaring for Tadic to apply a simple finish.

Only a fine save low to his right from Thibaut Courtois denied Saints a second through James Ward-Prowse as Chelsea struggled to create anything of note before the break.

“Our first half was very negative,” said Chelsea boss Antonio Conte. “We didn’t show great spirit, desire, will to fight to win this game.

“But I saw a great reaction. If you don’t have something in you’re heart, it’s difficult to come back and win this game.”

Chelsea’s frustration overspilled as tempers flared late in the first period when Marcos Alonso was lucky to escape unpunished for raking his studs down Shane Long’s calf.

“It’s a clear red card and clear intent to hurt Shane,” raged Hughes. “It could’ve broken his leg. There were three officials within five to 10 yards so how each of them missed it is a mystery to me.”

Bednarek marked his Premier League debut in style when he half-volleyed expertly across the goal and into the far corner from Ward-Prowse’s free-kick on the hour mark.

Conte swiftly responded by hauling off the disappointing Alvaro Morata and Davide Zappacosta for Pedro Rodriguez and Giroud.

And Giroud showed what he is capable of with a brave near post header from Alonso’s pinpoint cross to get Chelsea back in the game and spark an incredible fightback 20 minutes from time.

Five minutes later Hazard levelled by smashing home Willian’s cross from close range.

With Southampton reeling, Giroud then completed Chelsea’s comeback when he pounced on a loose ball inside the area to drive into the bottom corner.

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Arsenal talking points as Arsene Wenger lifeline in Europa League remains suspect despite late flourish

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Arsenal endured a tough evening in Moscow.

Arsenal secured a first continental semi-final since 2009 after they survived a charge from CSKA Moscow to draw 2-2 on the night and progress 6-3 on aggregate in the Europa League.

The Gunners boasted a healthy 4-1 advantage from last week’s opener at Emirates Stadium. But they were within one goal of going out by 50 minutes thanks to rebounds from attackers Fedor Chalov and Kiril Nababkin.

Any worries about a painful exit were then settled in the latter stages. England forward Danny Welbeck converted from Egypt midfielder Mohamed Elneny’s delightful pass and then during injury time Wales midfielder Aaron Ramsey dinked home his fourth goal in four appearances in the competition this term.

Here are the talking points:

WENGER REIGN REMAINS ON SHAKY GROUND

If Arsene Wenger’s storied – and undulating – Arsenal stint is to stretch into a 23rd year, victory in the Europa League appears vital.

With access to the riches of the Champions League locked out through the Premier League for a second-successive season, entry through the back door is required.

But after Thursday night’s largely nervous display in the Russian capital before their late flourish as the game became stretched, overall success seems anything but assured.

A 4-1 lead from the first leg should have guaranteed the easiest of passages into the semi-finals. Plus, CSKA had lost their last five matches against English opposition and no Russian team had defeated an English side since 2009.

Yet for more than a decade since the days of ‘The Invincibles’, the Gunners never chose the easy way. The second half was a tense affair until Welbeck produced his superb settler with 15 minutes left.

Arsenal’s suspect defence were statues for both goals, while only four shots on target were recorded by them.

Likely rivals for the trophy Atletico Madrid also struggled on the night at Sporting Lisbon. Yet the likes of Diego Simeone, Antoine Griezmann and Diego Costa will relish facing this Arsenal.

The second year on Wenger’s deal might not provide ample security.

DANNY IS THE BOY

Bolters for World Cups regularly appear at this stage.

There is no doubt now that goal scorer Welbeck is pressing a strong case to play a big role again on Russian soil in two months’ time.

The Manchester United youth product was the brightest player in a turgid first half for the visitors. Always a threat on the counter-attack, he set-up strike partner Alexandre Lacazette for a blocked shot and later teased a cross just beyond Ramsey’s reach.

The best was to come with 15 minutes left. A wonderful one-two with Elneny was followed up by a fitting and emphatic finish high into the net.

This was the Gunners’ second shot on target, ending any nerves about an embarrassing elimination. For Welbeck, this was also a fifth goal in his last four starts – following on from the weekend brace against Southampton.

Allied with Ramsey’s second, it helped prevent a sixth defeat in 10 away matches in all competitions.

The 37-times-capped international is not likely to start at the World Cup. But it is easy to see why head coach Gareth Southgate was so happy to reintegrate him last month after another long spell out injured.

MUSTAFI MAKES ANOTHER MESS OF IT

It feels utterly incongruous watching the error-prone Shkodran Mustafi that he is seventh-most expensive defender of all time and a World Cup winner with Germany.

The £35 million (Dh182.9m) recruit from Valencia in August 2016 followed on his weekend horror show against Saints with another suspect display against CSKA.

Mustafi wasn’t alone on a night to forget at the back.

Spain left-back Nacho Monreal was outjumped for the first and the second came from his side, plus both came from parries by goalkeeper Petr Cech. But their 25-year-old team-mate’s contribution was still suspect.

This time, he was left chasing shadows as 20-year-old forward Chalov charged in unopposed to tap-in Nababkin’s saved header for the opener.

Clearly, no lesson had been learned from Sunday’s decision to let Shane Long shoot unopposed and instead shuffle blame to the blameless veteran Cech.

It is no wonder reports in the British media emerged last month that this character trait has infuriated his team-mates.

Managers of Wenger and Joachim Low’s repute place value in Mustafi. The time is now for him to show why.

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Follow live match updates from CSKA Moscow v Arsenal and other Europa League deciders

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Arsenal are looking to get the job done in the Europa League at CSKA Moscow.

The last set of Europa League quarter-finals are upon us, with Arsenal’s trip to CSKA Moscow the highlight.

The Gunners boast a commanding 4-1 aggregate advantage from last week’s first leg and they will be looking to get the job done this evening. Atletico Madrid can say the same thing as they look to press home a 2-0 lead against crisis-hit Sporting Lisbon.

Elsewhere, RB Leipzig previously earned a 1-0 win against Marseille and there should be more goals when Red Bull Salzburg chase a 4-2 deficit against Lazio.

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