By FRANK GRIFFITHS
2014-05-04 11:01 PM
LONDON (AP) -- Olivier Giroud scored in the first half to give Arsenal a 1-0 win over West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League on Sunday, leaving the Baggies uncertain of their status in the top flight.
Giroud headed home at the near post in the 14th minute, getting in front of Craig Dawson and shrugging off the defender's attempts to hold him back as Santi Cazorla delivered a corner. Arsenal controlled the half from there, getting into a quick passing rhythm and dominating possession.
West Brom resorted to long-range efforts, with midfielder James Morrison launching a 40-yard shot after spotting Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny off his line in the first half, but the ball went well wide. Graham Dorrans' shot from about 20 yards came closer, forcing a reaction save from Szczesny in the 32nd.
For Arsenal, the match held little significance because the club had already secured at least a fourth-place finish and a 17th consecutive season of Champions League football after Everton's loss to Manchester City on Saturday. It felt like the home crowd was already looking forward to the summer -- a summer of spending they hope -- batting around a beach ball in the first half.
The Gunners have a faint hope of finishing in third place, meaning they wouldn't have to play an extra Champions League qualification round at the start of next season. But Chelsea would have to lose its final two matches for that to happen, including Sunday's late kick-off against Norwich, which is the likeliest candidate for the final relegation spot.
Mathematically, West Brom still faces the threat of going down, sitting four points above the bottom three. But the Baggies will be out of danger if Norwich loses to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge later Sunday. Cardiff and Fulham have already been condemned to play in the League Championship next season.
It was Arsenal's final home game of the season, but the team still has one more match to play in north London -- the FA Cup final against Hull at Wembley Stadium on May 17. A win for Arsenal would mean a first trophy in nine years after failing to win silverware since lifting the 2005 FA Cup.
Abou Diaby returned to the squad for the first time in more than a year after recovering from a serious knee injury. Midfielder Aaron Ramsey missed out with a minor thigh problem.