Arsenal thrashes West Ham 5-1 in Premier League
(AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
By STEVE DOUGLAS
AP Sports Writer
LONDON (AP) Arsenal reignited its bid for a finish in the Champions League positions by thrashing West Ham 5-1 in the English Premier League on Wednesday, with a scoring spree at the start of the second half doing the damage.
Held to 1-1 at halftime, Arsene Wenger's side found the net four times in an 11-minute span early in the second half, with striker Olivier Giroud scoring twice in one of his most effective displays since his move last summer from French club Montpellier.
Lukas Podolski, Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott also scored for Arsenal, which moved one point behind fifth-place Everton. Tottenham, which occupied the fourth and final Champions League spot, was four points ahead of Arsenal.
West Ham had taken the lead through Jack Collison in the 15th minute.
After recent defeats to Manchester City and Chelsea, Wenger had effectively called this a must-win game for his side if it was to qualify for the Champions League for the 16th straight year.
His players responded to that challenge in stunning fashion, although they made hard work of it after falling behind to Collison's powerful strike from the edge of the area following Giroud's poor header out.
Arsenal always looked dangerous going forward, though, and found the visiting defense easy to pierce once it got into its stride.
Back from illness, Podolski led the charge, equalizing in the 24th with a sweetly struck shot from 25 yards (meters).
Giroud made it 2-1 by glancing in Walcott's corner at the near post before Podolski set up three almost identical goals in a madcap five-minute spell when West Ham's defense went to sleep.
Cazorla's deft drag-flick in the 53rd was the pick of the finishes.
The game ended after 12 minutes of second-half stoppage time after play was held up following a serious-looking injury to West Ham substitute Daniel Potts.
Updated January 23, 2013