Arsenal 2 Swansea City 2 match report: Mathieu Flamini own goal sees Gunners' Premier League title challenge falter

Frenchman put the ball into his own net in the 90th minute

emirates stadium

Arsenal’s season unravelled further on Wednesday night as a stoppage-time own-goal threw away a game they had somehow been winning; and which Swansea  could have then won but for a controversial decision by the referee to blow his whistle for full time with Jonathan De Guzman through on goal.

The subsequent anger of the visiting players ended a night of slow frustration and occasional drama, in which Arsenal played dismally for the first 73 minutes, trailing 1-0 to Swansea, who played a nearly perfect game for more than hour. The weekend defeat at Stamford Bridge seemed to have sapped the Arsenal players and fans.

Then, out of nowhere, Lukas Podolski, on as a substitute, and Olivier Giroud scored in consecutive minutes and Arsenal appeared to have rescued a remarkable win before the dramatic finale.

Read more: Ramsey suffers fresh injury setback
Wenger concedes title hopes are over
Arsenal 2 Swansea 2 - match report
 

The initial hope here on Wednesday night was just for a return to normality. Arsène Wenger’s generous description of Saturday’s collapse at Stamford Bridge as an “accident” suggested that he wanted to move on as quickly as possible from a very troubling trend. While Arsenal’s record against the best is dismal, they are at least meant to be better this season against the weaker sides.

So Wenger only made one unenforced change to Saturday’s team, with Mathieu Flamini brought in to add the intensity and application that Podolski had not exactly been brimming with before last night. Laurent Koscielny was out with a calf injury so Thomas Vermaelen came in at centre-back.

That partnership between Koscielny and Per Mertesacker has been one of the strengths of Arsenal’s season; their new-found “defensive stability”, in Wenger’s phrase, helping them to 13 clean sheets this season.

Wilfried Bony uses his head to give Swansea the lead Wilfried Bony uses his head to give Swansea the lead But that pair was separated last night and with Swansea’s first attack they took the lead. Arsenal played an acceptable first 10 minutes but when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, reprieved from suspension, gave the ball away in midfield, Swansea could play keep-ball. Soon enough it fell to Neil Taylor, in far too much space on the left. He crossed and Wilfried Bony darted behind Mertesacker and in front of Vermaelen, heading the ball into the net.

Read more: Wilshere has not improved since he was 17 - Paul Scholes
Who could replace Wenger?
Arsenal, Everton, Spurs: The key fixtures in the battle for fourth

The Arsenal fans tried to rouse their team, and while they dominated possession they were very short on conviction and skill in the final third. It was explicable enough, given the absences of Mesut Özil, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott, but still a desperate frustration too.

Tomas Rosicky and Santi Cazorla found good positions on the left but crossed straight to defenders, Mertesacker headed into the side netting and Oxlade-Chamberlain, 20 yards out, hammered a shot straight into Rosicky’s back. Giroud could not control a cross from Oxlade-Chamberlain and Bacary Sagna could not get his head on an Arteta free-kick.

There was one good chance, two minutes before the break, when Cazorla shuffled past two defenders on the edge of the box but he hit his left-footed shot straight at Michel Vorm. That was as good as it got, Arsenal trudging into the warmth of the half-time dressing room hoping to come back with some better ideas.

Lukas Podolski levelled the score with a volley Lukas Podolski levelled the score with a volley There was no obvious improvement, though, and so, 10 wasted minutes after the re-start, Podolski was introduced for Oxlade-Chamberlain. Arsenal continued to play in Swansea’s half but could not break through their deep defence. Soon after, Rosicky stabbed a shot over from 20 yards but they still could not create anything resembling a chance.

These were old Arsenal problems, back to trouble them again last night. Possession is nice but without penetration it is what Wenger famously called “sterile domination”.

There was so little nimble mobility from Giroud and Podolski that Rosicky and Cazorla did not know what to do with  the ball. When they gave it to the full-backs to cross, Swansea, with Ashley Williams and Chico Flores back to their best, simply headed the ball away.

But matches can turn on one quick decision and so it was, with 17 minutes left, when Kieran Gibbs just put his head down and ran. Rather than swinging in a cross from deep, he burst past a tiring Angel Rangel down to the by-line, and whipped the ball back. Podolski, free in the box, turned it in.

In a moment, the atmosphere inside the stadium switched. Having done nothing all game, Arsenal scored their second goal one minute after their first. Podolski, a confidence player in a confidence team, stormed down the left wing and bent a perfect cross around Williams and into the path of Giroud, whose finish could not have been easier.

Oliver Giroud finishes a fine move to put the Gunners 2-1 up Oliver Giroud finishes a fine move to put the Gunners 2-1 up It felt, for the final 16 minutes of normal time, as if Arsenal had got away with it. Wenger even introduced Kim Kallstrom, but his calming influence was not enough to prevent the error at the death that cost Arsenal the win. Leon Britton, still energetic, exchanged passes with Rangel and burst into the box. Mertesacker lunged to tackle him, the keeper Wojciech Szczesny tried to hack the ball away but it hit Mathieu Flamini and rolled into the net.

And then came even more trauma. The referee Lee Probert blew his final whistle just as De Guzman was through on goal with Szczesny. The Swansea players surrounded Probert, and with good reason. But neither team walked off happy.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most