London: Arsenal left it late to move up to third in the Premier League table as a remarkable comeback gave them a 3-1 victory against Norwich on Saturday.
Arsene Wenger’s side dominated a tense affair but a flat first-half display meant they could not break down a resolute Norwich back-line, and matters were made worse when Michael Turner opened the scoring for the Canaries on the hour-mark.
But a late penalty from Mikel Arteta was followed by strikes from Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski at the death as Arsenal sealed their seventh league win in eight games in the most dramatic of circumstances.
The headline team news was undoubtedly the return of England midfielder Jack Wilshere, who replaced the injured Tomas Roiscky in one of three changes from Arsenal’s 2-1 win at West Brom. Kieran Gibbs replaced Nacho Monreal, while skipper Thomas Vermaelen came in for the suspended Per Mertesacker.
Norwich boss Chris Hughton, meanwhile, also made three changes from his side’s 2-2 draw against Swansea as Steven Whittaker replaced Javier Garrido, Alexander Tettey came in for Elliot Bennett and skipper Grant Holt returned in place of Wes Hoolahan.
From the off, the creative trio of Wilshere, Gervinho and Santi Cazorla sparked to life as the home side pursued the strong start boss Wenger had stressed the importance of before kick-off.
Aaron Ramsey, Giroud and Gervinho all came close thereafter as the home side began to knock on the Norwich door with some determination.
And the hosts’ persistence would continue after the break as a melee in the penalty area saw several attempts at goal either palmed away by Bunn or blocked by a Canaries defender.
But minutes later, it was the visiting fans who were celebrating against all the odds as Turner headed home a Robert Snodgrass free kick.
Wenger’s response was immediate: off went Wilshere and Gervinho, on came Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott.
And after 64 minutes, the England winger almost made an impact as he surged into the box only to be brought down by Whittaker. Once again, though, referee Mike Jones dismissed any penalty appeals as the atmosphere at the Emirates Stadium grew more and more tense.
Fifteen minutes later, it was Walcott’s fellow substitute who came close as Podolski smashed a sweet strike towards goal that needed a superb Bunn save to send it crashing against the crossbar.
But Arsenal would finally get their equaliser with just five minutes left – though it came in the most controversial of circumstances.
Giroud was felled in the box and the assistant referee signalled for a spot-kick as Kei Kamara was penalised for a foul. The decision was dubious but Arteta’s penalty was not, with the Spaniard converting to level the scores.
And the Gunners were not done there as a surging run and cross into the box from substitute Oxlade-Chamberlain late on ended with a timely tap-in from Giroud, though the last touch may have come off Sebastien Bassong.
Shortly after, Podolski smashed home from the edge of the area and Arsenal`s remarkable comeback was complete.