Football

Published: Sunday February 23, 2014 MYT 4:02:02 AM
Updated: Sunday February 23, 2014 MYT 4:02:13 AM

Wenger salutes two-goal Giroud's Arsenal return

LONDON (Reuters) - Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger praised Olivier Giroud's strength of character after the France striker marked his return to the starting lineup with two goals in a 4-1 victory over Sunderland on Saturday.

Giroud has had a troubled February. He began on the bench for the previous two matches against Liverpool and Bayern Munich and also had to issue an apology on Twitter at the start of the month following media reports of a hotel-room encounter with a model.

"I had no hesitation about his strength of character," Wenger told a news conference after second-placed Arsenal stayed one point behind Chelsea at the top of the Premier League.

"Of course you want him to come back in the team and be successful and that's what he was today because he scored two goals."

Giroud put his side 2-0 up inside 31 minutes and then set up a stunning third just before the break, flicking the ball through for Tomas Rosicky to chip former Arsenal keeper Vito Mannone after a series of quick passes had cut Sunderland open.

Sunderland improved after the break but the home team extended their lead in the 57th minute when unmarked defender Laurent Koscielny rose to head in a Santi Cazorla corner.

Halftime substitute Emanuele Giaccherini pulled a goal back with nine minutes to go but it was scant consolation for the visitors who remained third from bottom.

Koscielny and fellow defender Nacho Monreal picked up back and foot injuries respectively but Wenger was confident both would be fit for Arsenal's next game against Stoke City next Saturday.

Germany playmaker Mesut Ozil, who missed the game against Sunderland with a thigh problem, should also return.

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)

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