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Arsenal came from behind to see off Preston North End 2-1 at Deepdale and book their spot in the FA Cup fourth round.
Preston had burst out of the starting blocks early doors and had Arsenal rattled and also behind when Callum Robinson banged home the game’s opener after just seven minutes.
The Championship had a shed load of chances to bury Arsenal in that opening period but simply weren’t able to get the job done; life is a cruel mistress and football follows suit so often and tonight was no different. Arsene Wenger rallied his troops at half-time with some choice words and his team came out in the second period a changed side - dominating all over the pitch.
That change from sluggishness to dynamism led to goals. First Aaron Ramsey put Arsenal level shortly after the break and then Olivier Giroud grabbed the winner with a minute of normal time remaining to secure the victory for the Premier League side.
Preston got the dream start against their glamorous opponents with a goal inside the opening ten minutes. Ireland international Aiden McGeady being heavily involved in the build-up as he skipped inside to pick out Jordan Hugill in the Gunners box. Nacho Monreal managed to get the tackle in but the ball fell to Robinson to finish at the back post.
It was almost 2-0 on 20 minutes as Hugill crossed from the right for Robinson to head towards goal only for Shkodran Mustafi to scramble the effort clear.
Minutes later Robinson was through on goal and tried to tee up Hugill for the tap in, only to overdo it and leave Hugill stretching to connect, and not able to do it on the lunge.
Ben Pearson also went close for Preston as he forced David Ospina into palming away, before Marnick Vermijl smashed an effort wide of the back post from a McGeady cross.
It took until after the hour for Arsenal to find some rhythm as Giroud and Ramsey combined with a one-two before the Welshman’s goalbound effort was blocked away. Giroud was again involved when he was played in at the top of the box by an Alex Iwobi cross but the Frenchman got a chip all wrong angles wise.
The Arsenal defence was all at sea and once more Preston should have capitalised, this time Hugill was played in on goal to chip Ospina, but Monreal scrambled back to hack away.
It was end-to-end stuff and the Gunners had a penalty shout shortly before the break as well as Greg Cunningham came across Giroud to cut him off in the box, but referee Bobby Madley was having none of it as he waved play on.
The first half was Preston’s all the way though as they had Arsenal on the ropes and could have been out of sight, but they weren’t, and the Gunners rallied just minutes after the restart with Ramsey smashing home an equaliser from 18 yards after Iwobi had played him in at the top of the box.
Arsenal had anther shout for a penalty just after the hour. Granit Xhaka chipped a ball into the box in the direction of Giroud, who was pulled back by Paul Huntington before he headed back to keeper Chris Maxwell, in a situation where a penalty has often been given many times before.
Giroud did have the ball in the net when he latched onto another ball over the top, but this time he was adjudged to be ever so slightly offside, before volleying to the back of the onion sack.
Preston had ended the first half in the ascendancy but the Gunners were the side pressing in attack as the second half came to a close. Iwobi made superb space as he injected pace to speed into the box but his effort on goal was straight down the throat of Maxwell.
Preston brought on Daryl Horgan – their new signing from the Dundalk ranks – to try to add something in attack in the dying minutes. But it was Arsenal that found the way through. Giroud rose in the box to flick on for Lucas Perez to collect before returning possession to Giroud to finish home from close range with just a minute of normal time remaining.
The hosts were given four minutes of added time to find an equaliser but it wouldn’t come as they were left to rue their profligate nature in the opening half.
Photo: Getty/Michael Regan
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