Giroud scores to give Arsenal 1-0 win over West Bromwich Albion
Arsenal's Olivier Giroud, left, competes for the ball with West Bromwich Albion's Jonas Olsson during their English Premier League soccer match at Emirates Stadium in London, Sunday, May 4, 2014. (AP / Sang Tan)
Frank Griffiths, The Associated Press
Published Sunday, May 4, 2014 1:21PM EDT
LONDON -- Olivier Giroud scored in the first half to give Arsenal a 1-0 win over West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League on Sunday, although the Baggies still finished the day virtually assured of staying in the top flight.
Giroud headed home at the near post in the 14th minute, getting in front of Craig Dawson and shrugging off the defender's attempts to hold him back as Santi Cazorla delivered a corner. It was the striker's 22nd goal in all competitions this season.
Arsenal controlled the game from there, getting into a quick passing rhythm and dominating possession, although it struggled to create serious scoring chances.
West Brom resorted to long-range efforts, with midfielder James Morrison launching a 40-yard shot after spotting Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny off his line in the first half, but the ball went well wide. Graham Dorrans' shot from about 20 yards came closer, forcing a reaction save from Szczesny in the 32nd.
For Arsenal, the match held little significance because the club had already secured at least a fourth-place finish and a 17th consecutive season of Champions League football after Everton's loss to Manchester City on Saturday. In the last home game of the season, it felt like the home crowd was already looking forward to the summer, batting around a beach ball in the first half.
"We played well," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. "They had a few chances as well. We wanted to finish with a win and we did it. Maybe it was a bit subdued because we knew beforehand we would remain in the top four."
Despite the loss, West Brom can start planning for another season in the Premier League after Norwich only drew 0-0 at Chelsea. That leaves West Brom three points ahead of the 18th-place Canaries with a game in hand and a vastly superior goal difference, with Norwich only having one more game to play -- against Arsenal. Cardiff and Fulham have already been relegated to the League Championship for next season.
West Brom manager Pepe Mel said he was uncertain of his own future after signing an 18-month contract with the club in January. He said 13 players are out of contract this summer, and he needs to hold talks with club officials to see if they share a similar vision for the club going forward. The fans have taken a liking to him, waving Spanish flags in the away end with messages urging him to stay.
"I have a meeting with the chairman," he said. "I will express what I want."
Arsenal still has one more match to play in north London -- the FA Cup final against Hull at Wembley Stadium on May 17. A win for Arsenal would mean a first trophy in nine years after failing to win silverware since lifting the 2005 FA Cup.
After the final whistle Sunday, the Arsenal players -- many of them carrying their children -- walked around the pitch in a lap of appreciation. The overwhelming chant from fans was "Bacary Sagna, we want you to stay," after recent reports linked the right back with a move to Manchester City.
Wenger said he wants Sagna and backup goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski to stay, with both players out of contract after the season.
Abou Diaby returned to the squad for the first time in more than a year after recovering from a serious knee injury but was an unused substitute. Midfielder Aaron Ramsey missed out with a minor thigh problem. Arsenal's last league match is away to Norwich on May 11, while West Brom has two fixtures left: away to Sunderland on May 7 and home to Stoke on May 11.