Stoke 1-4 Arsenal: Olivier Giroud double helps keep top-four hopes alive

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Alexis Sanchez has scored 50 Premier League goals for Arsenal
Alexis Sanchez has scored 50 Premier League goals for Arsenal
Champions League-chasing Arsenal moved within a point of fourth-placed Liverpool with a comfortable Premier League victory over Stoke.

Despite collecting the three points, manager Arsene Wenger faced further protests from his own supporters during the game, as they flew a plane over the Bet365 Stadium and held banners inside the ground calling for him to leave the club.

But the Frenchman ended the game by receiving warm applause from the club’s travelling fans as he made his way down the tunnel at the final whistle.

The Gunners had not won on their previous six visits to the venue, but took the lead with a well-crafted move as Hector Bellerin picked out Olivier Giroud for an easy tap-in to an open net and Alexis Sanchez combined with Mesut Ozil, who coolly tucked home a finish in the second period.

Deal of the day

Up until their opener it had been a poor spectacle, with Nacho Monreal heading against the post and Sanchez dragging an effort into the side-netting from a promising position for the visitors.

Stoke controversially restored hope as Peter Crouch converted Marko Arnautovic’s cross into the net with his hand, but Sanchez drilled in a low finish and Giroud slid in a fourth for the away side.

Both Arsenal and Liverpool have two games remaining and are level on goal difference at +29 with the Gunners ahead by one on goals scored.

Jurgen Klopp’s men travel to West Ham on Sunday (kick-off 2:15pm) and play Middlesbrough on the last day of the season, while the north London club host Sunderland on Tuesday and Everton in their final league match next weekend.

Arsenal to finish with a flourish

Arsenal manager Arsenal Wenger faced further protests from supporters
Arsenal manager Arsenal Wenger faced further protests from supporters

Wenger’s season has been blighted by protests demanding the Frenchman end his long association with the club, repeated questions over whether he will sign an extension to his contract, which runs out at the end of the season, and uncertainties over the futures of key players Sanchez and Ozil.

But he will be pleased at the way his players have responded with the campaign coming to a close, now picking up five wins from their last six league games – the only blemish a weak display in their defeat by rivals Tottenham.

He was even afforded a standing ovation at full-time and will be particularly satisfied at triumphing at a venue where his side have struggled in the past, claiming their first win there since 2010.

Wenger jumped off his seat and jigged in delight at Sanchez’s goal, which gave his team a cushion.

The Chilean, who has been linked with a move away, hobbled off with a leg injury after scoring and fans will be hoping it is not the last time they see him in an Arsenal shirt.

A season that promised so little at one stage could actually turn into a celebratory one, as their late charge sees them maintain optimism of extending their Champions League participation to 22 consecutive seasons as well as an FA Cup final against newly crowned Premier League champions Chelsea to look forward to.