‘Exceptional’ Welbeck hits double as Arsenal beat Southampton
Wenger praises England striker as Gunners come from behind to beat Saints at the Emirates
08 April, 2018 — By Steve Barnett
ARSENAL 3 (Aubameyang 28, Welbeck 38, 81, Elneny sent off 90+3)
SOUTHAMPTON 2 (Long 17, Austin 73, Stephens sent off 90+2)
DANNY Welbeck scored two goals and got an assist as Arsenal overcame Southampton at the Emirates Stadium this afternoon (Sunday).
What the game lacked in quality it made up for in excitement, producing five goals, two red cards and one of the misses of the season.
Gunners boss Arsene Wenger quipped after the game, “When you come here you see good football and you see goals, which is what you want for the fans.”
Wenger made seven changes to his starting line-up with Thursday’s Europa League quarter-final second leg against CSKA Moscow in mind.
The sparse home crowd might have been regretting the decision to come out in the rain when the visitors took the lead on 17 minutes. Cedric Soares found space on the right and whipped in a cross, and, with Petr Cech and Shkodran Mustafi dithering, Shane Long strode in to prod the ball home.
Arsenal levelled just before the half-hour mark when Welbeck’s clever flick allowed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to scuff the ball past the onrushing Alex McCarthy.
The home side soon found themselves in front as Welbeck scored his first league goal since September.
Alex Iwobi found Welbeck with a well-weighted pass, and the England striker cut inside before unleashing a shot that looped in off Maya Yoshida’s leg.
It looked like the Saints had snatched a point on 73 minutes when substitute Charlie Austin turned in Soares’ cross with almost his first touch of the game.
Minutes later Welbeck had a forlorn look on his face – wondering how, after being picked out by Jack Wilshere, he had managed to fire the ball wide from three yards when he had an empty net at his mercy.
But the forward made amends when he headed home the winner from six yards – an opportunity that was harder to convert than the miss he’d endured just minutes earlier.
In injury time the game exploded into a flurry of red cards. First Southampton defender Jack Stephens was dismissed for his reaction to having his shirt pulled by Wilshere, before Mohamed Elneny was sent off for a shove on Soares as tempers flared before the final whistle finally came.
After the game Wenger singled out the “exceptional” Welbeck.
“I am very pleased for him because he is a guy who went through a very difficult time and has shown exceptional mental strength to come back,” said Wenger.
“He had every reason to feel sorry for himself. First he injured one knee, then the other – both times being kept out for over a year. Yet he’s battled back. What he’s done is exceptional.”
ARSENAL: Cech, Bellerin (Holding, 74), Chambers, Mustafi, Kolasinac, Elneny, Xhaka, Iwobi, Nelson (Wilshere, 64), Welbeck, Aubameyang (Lacazette, 71)
Substitutes not used: Macey, Monreal, Ozil, Nketiah
SOUTHAMPTON: McCarthy, Stephens, Yoshida (Austin, 72), Hoedt, Cedric, Romeu, Hojbjerg, Bertrand, Tadic, Ward-Prowse, Long (Sims, 80)
Substitutes not used: Forster, Boufal, Gabbiadini, Redmond, Pied