Arsenal 3-2 Southampton: Danny Welbeck scores twice in action-packed Emirates clash
Last Updated: 09/04/18 12:01am
Danny Welbeck scored twice as Arsenal recovered from a series of setbacks to claim a 3-2 victory over Southampton and keep Mark Hughes' side deep in relegation trouble.
Charlie Austin looked to have earned a hard-fought point when he equalised (73) with only his second touch from the bench, but Welbeck scored his second of the game just eight minutes later and the header proved decisive.
The result was tough on a Saints side that had punished a defensive mix-up to take a surprise lead through Shane Long (17), before further first-half goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (28) and Welbeck (38) wrestled the contest back in Arsenal's favour.
An action-packed encounter descended into chaos in the closing moments as Jack Stephens and Mohamed Elneny saw red for angry reactions, but while Arsenal, on course for the Europe League semi-finals, can savour a sixth straight win in all competitions, Hughes' imperilled side remain three points from safety.
Arsenal: Cech (7), Bellerin (6), Chambers (6), Mustafi (5), Kolasinac (6), Elneny (6), Xhaka (6), Iwobi (7), Nelson (6), Welbeck (7), Aubameyang (7).
Subs: Lacazette (6), Wilshere (6), Holding (6).
Southampton: McCarthy (7), Stephens (5), Yoshida (5), Hoedt (6), Cedric (7), Romeu (6), Hojbjerg (6), Bertrand (6), Ward-Prowse (6), Tadic (7), Long (7).
Subs: Austin (7), Sims (6).
Man of the match: Danny Welbeck
Arsene Wenger had made seven changes with Thursday's Moscow decider in mind and though the visitors were under pressure again early on, Tadic cynically clattering Reiss Nelson when the youngster dropped a shoulder, the game's first chance fell their way as Arsenal switched off.
Tadic raced onto a forward punt, James Ward-Prowse's resulting effort cleared off the line, and the Serbian was afforded more space at the byline moments later with the hosts' brisk start seeming increasingly deceptive.
Arsenal looked ragged and this time Tadic's attacking intent paid off, Long darting beyond Hector Bellerin before beating a dithering Shkodran Mustafi at the front post as Petr Cech was left to berate his team-mate.
Mesut Ozil, Jack Wilshere, Nacho Monreal, and Alexandre Lacazette were on the bench, with Aaron Ramsey and Laurent Koscielny left out and Henrikh Mkhitaryan injured. Calum Chambers, Sead Kolasinac, Mohamed Elneny, Danny Welbeck, Alex Iwobi and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang came in, with Reiss Nelson handed his first Premier League start.
Mark Hughes made four changes from a 3-0 defeat to West Ham with Manolo Gabbiadini, Nathan Redmond, Charlie Austin and Mario Lemina replaced by Maya Yoshida, Oriol Romeu, Shane Long and James Ward-Prowse.
A sparse home crowd bristled as their side laboured but Aubameyang hauled them back into the contest just before the half-hour mark, the finish on the stretch scruffy but the back-flick into his path from Welbeck inspired.
Alex Iwobi had played in Welbeck for the equaliser and he found the striker again as Arsenal finally took command seven minutes before the break, Welbeck cutting inside before firing a ball that looped in off Maya Yoshida's leg.
Iwobi, drifting dangerously between the lines, tested McCarthy himself after the restart but the Gunners remained vulnerable while their lead was slender and after Cech thwarted Pierre-Emile Hojberg, Mohamed Elneny cleared a Wesley Hoedt header off the line.
Long made Cech work again when he rose to meet a Ryan Bertrand corner and showed sharp reactions to divert Cedric's effort into the back of the net with just over an hour gone, a warning fired even if the flag was raised.
Aubameyang left the field for Alexandre Lacazette to a standing ovation while Hughes threw on Austin as a second striker in a change that proved pivotal, the substitute tapping in for swift impact when Cedric centred.
Welbeck missed a glorious chance from just yards out when Jack Wilshere had stretched to keep a move alive but he made no mistake shortly after with a back-post header following more fine work by Iwobi.
The Saints were reduced to 10 men in stoppage time after Stephens was dismissed for his reaction to having his shirt pulled by Wilshere, before Elneny was sent off for a shove on Cedric as tempers flared before the whistle finally came.
- Arsenal have won six matches in a row in all competitions for the first time since May 2017 (also six).
- Mark Hughes has now lost each of his 11 trips to Arsenal in the Premier League. Only Harry Redknapp against Manchester United (15) is on a longer wait for an away win against an opponent in the competition.
- Pierre Emerick Aubameyang has been directly involved in seven goals in his first seven Premier League games (six goals, one assist), more than any other player in their first seven appearances for the Gunners.
- Charlie Austin has scored in each of his four Premier League games against Arsenal (four goals), including in both of his appearances at the Emirates.
Danny Welbeck's two goals and man-of-the-match performance will no doubt have caught Southgate's eye, and his nine goals this term is his best return since joining from Man Utd in 2014.
Jack Wilshere came on late and was involved in a late ruccus with Jack Stephens, which saw the Saints man sent off.
For Southampton, Ryan Bertrand was busy and solid at left-back, as was James Ward-Prowse, with both putting in 6/10 displays.
Arsene Wenger: "When you play every three days it is difficult to get into the pace of the game, and when you look at the game today, we were twice in difficult situations at 1-0 down and at 2-2, and again we found the response to win the game.
"It shows we have the resources, and the spirit especially I would say, that even when the legs don't respond as much as you want, we have the mental resources still to win the game."
Mark Hughes: "We've got difficult games coming up, we understand that, but what you have to show is qualities and strengths in your play and mind-set, and for the most part I saw what I needed to see today.
"Confidence has been a little bit low, something I've recognised since I came into Southampton, but it won't be damaged today. I think confidence will be high after today."
Man of the match - Danny Welbeck
The England forward had not scored a single league goal since September last year, but proved the catalyst for a much-changed Arsenal side with two goals and a stylish assist.
Arsenal head to Moscow on Thursday looking to seal their place in the last four of the Europa League, before travelling to resurgent Newcastle on Super Sunday. Southampton continue their fight for survival against Chelsea at St Mary's next Saturday.
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