Uefa Champions League-bound Arsenal cruise

Olivier Giroud

Arsenal celebrated their Champions League qualification as Olivier Giroud secured a 1-0 win against West Bromwich Albion on Sunday.

Arsene Wenger’s side booked their place in Europe’s elite club competition without kicking a ball when fifth-placed Everton were beaten 3-2 by Manchester City on Saturday.

And 24 hours later, Giroud’s first-half header maintained the feelgood factor at the Emirates Stadium and capped a stroll in the sunshine for the Gunners, who were rarely troubled en route to a fourth successive victory.

After looking in severe danger of missing out on the Champions League for the first time in 17 years following their defeat at Everton last month, there was a palpable sense of relief in north London that Arsenal had wrapped up fourth place with two games to spare.

“It was a bit subdued, maybe, because we already knew we were in the top four, but we were serious and wanted to finish with a win,” Wenger said. “I believe the mentality of the team was outstanding to finish in the top four.

 “You can be pleased with the attitude, but frustrated because we were top of the league for 128 days then we dropped off.” Albion boss Pepe Mel added: “We did enough to get a point, but I was disappointed with the goal.

Baggies never threatened

“When you play against the big teams you simply cannot concede from set pieces.” The Baggies never threatened to spoil the party, but Mel’s team remain four points above the relegation zone and their safety will be guaranteed if third-from-bottom Norwich lose either of their final two matches against Chelsea and Arsenal.

With influential midfielder Aaron Ramsey sidelined by a thigh injury and Arsenal’s Champions League mission already complete, it would have been no surprise to see the Gunners go through the motions.

At Stamford Bridge, Norwich City all but ended Chelsea’s Premier League title challenge and gave themselves a fighting chance of avoiding relegation by recording a 0-0 draw.

AFP