A rejuvenated Mesut Ozil helped Arsenal secure a place in the FA Cup semifinals for the first time since 2009 while Manchester United eased past West Bromwich 3—0 to keep alive its faint top—four hopes in the Premier League on Saturday.
Arsenal beat Everton 4—1 at Emirates Stadium to become the first team through to the last four, with substitute Olivier Giroud scoring two of the hosts’ three goals in the final 22 minutes.
Yet it was the display of Ozil that stood out, the Germany playmaker responding to criticism of his lackluster recent performances by scoring the opening goal in the seventh minute, setting up Giroud’s second and working tirelessly for the team.
“Physically he looked regenerated, with more power in his runs,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said, “and, as well, what I liked is he did a lot of dirty work for a player like him.”
The other quarterfinal matches are on Sunday.
Phil Jones, Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck scored for United at The Hawthorns to move the beleaguered champions up to sixth, provisionally nine points behind fourth—place Manchester City.
It will need an almost—flawless run—in for United to finish in the Champions League positions but the result at least will boost confidence that dropped to a season low after losing 2—0 at Olympiakos in the first leg of their Champions League last—16 match 11 days ago.
“We were hurt after losing to Olympiakos and we wanted to come and show everyone we’re a good team,” Rooney said. “We played with great energy and we always looked a threat.”
City, which plays defending champion Wigan in the FA Cup on Sunday in a repeat of the 2013 final, has two games in hand over United in the league.
Jones headed United in front in the 34th minute from Robin van Persie’s free kick and an unmarked Rooney nodded in Rafael’s cross in the 65th to virtually secure three points. Welbeck added a third in the 82nd as United climbed above Everton on goal difference.
Fulham stayed in last place by losing 3—1 at fellow struggler Cardiff, which is third from bottom but level on points with fourth—bottom West Brom. Southampton won 1—0 at Crystal Palace thanks to Jay Rodriguez’s goal and Norwich drew 1—1 with Stoke.
In the late game, Chelsea can extend its lead to seven points by beating Tottenham.
Arsenal has dropped off the pace in the Premier League title race by winning just one of its last four matches, and is unlikely to progress beyond the last 16 of the Champions League after a 2—0 home defeat to Bayern Munich in their first leg.
That means the FA Cup has become a priority for the Gunners, who are without a trophy since 2005, and it took the 61st—minute introduction of Giroud when the score was 1—1 to turn a tight contest against Everton.
The France striker, on for inexperienced and ineffective compatriot Yaya Sanogo, gave Arsenal more presence up front to allow the team’s attacking midfielders to shine.
Alex Oxlade—Chamberlain was tripped by Gareth Barry for a penalty, which Mikel Arteta needed to convert twice — the first was ruled out for encroachment by Giroud, to give Arsenal a 68th—minute lead.
Giroud sidefooted home Bacary Sagna’s cross from close range in the 83rd and, after another flowing move, Ozil supplied a center for Giroud to apply another simple finish two minutes later.
Ozil has been criticized by English media in recent weeks while some Germany supporters directed their ire at the playmaker during the midweek friendly win over Chile. But he was impressive here, slotting home neatly from Santi Cazorla’s pass to put Arsenal in front, only for Romelu Lukaku to equalize in the 32nd.
Everton youngster Ross Barkley squandered a great chance for the visitors in the 54th minute and it was all Arsenal after Giroud’s introduction.
“It was important for us to win today,” Wenger said, “on the psychological front.”