Arsenal 1-0 West Bromwich Albion
Olivier Giroud scored the only goal of the game as Arsenal marked their top-four Premier League finish with a laboured win over West Bromwich Albion on Sunday.
After Everton's home defeat to Manchester City confirmed the Gunners' 17th consecutive appearance in the Champions League, a strangely muted display followed for Arsene Wenger's team in their final home game of the campaign.
Indeed, only Giroud's 14th-minute header broke the monotony of the game, despite Albion still not being quite safe from relegation from the Premier League.
Wenger replaced Aaron Ramsey with Mathieu Flamini, while West Brom head coach Pepe Mel brought in Diego Lugano and James Morrison for Steven Reid and Billy Jones.
With 4th secured, it's time to finish the season on a high, starting today against WBA. Good luck, boys!— Aaron Ramsey (@aaronramsey) May 4, 2014
Lukas Podolski went close in the opening stages when he blazed wide of Ben Foster's goal after being set up by Giroud.
Albion delivered a warning to the home side in the seventh minute when Saido Berahino latched on to a Morrison through ball but could not find the power to beat Wojciech Szczesny.
West Brom supporters began 60 seconds of applause in the ninth minute of the game and unfurled a banner in support of the Justice For Jeff campaign, as Brett Gibbons of the Birmingham Mail reported recently.
Former Albion No. 9 Jeff Astle died in 2002 at the age of 59 from a degenerative illness, which a coroner believes was caused by heading heavy leather balls. His family are now urging the Football Association to conduct further investigations into the repeated heading of balls.
In the 14th minute, Arsenal opened the scoring when Giroud nipped in before West Brom defender Craig Dawson to connect with a Santi Cazorla corner.
But the game lapsed after the goal with few chances being created at the Emirates Stadium in the period following the Frenchman's strike.
In the 32nd minute, though, Albion threatened with a fierce Graeme Dorrans drive before Berahino almost took advantage of a poor Mesut Ozil ball.
In first-half injury time, a Giroud cross was cleared to Flamini at the edge of the Albion box, but he fired straight at Foster.
Half-time: Arsenal 1-0 West Brom. Giroud with the goal. Not a nail-biter, in truth.— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 4, 2014
The second half followed the pattern of the first, with little to excite the Emirates Stadium crowd, until Giroud produced a tremendous run to force a corner. But the entertainment was short-lived, as Cazorla's set-piece came to nothing.
Then Arsenal began to get their act together with some good movement, and Podolski's 62nd-minute run heartened the home crowd.
Nacho Monreal became the first man to be cautioned moments later for a foul on Stephane Sessegnon, after Kim Kallstrom replaced Mikel Arteta.
Per Mertesacker and Szczesny had to work together in the 71st minute to smother a dangerous West Brom move.
Ozil spurned a chance to add a second for Arsenal in the 73rd minute after being put through by a Giroud flick, but the midfielder could not get the ball from under his feet.
Arsenal were looking for a little more potency, and QPR striker Loic Remy, who has been linked with the Gunners, was among the crowd watching the game.
A poor Jonas Olsson clearance almost cost Albion a second goal, but Podolski mis-hit his effort, and the ball came off the post.
West Brom went in search of an equaliser as they brought off Youssouf Mulumbu for striker Matej Vydra, but successive corners brought little joy for the visitors, as the chances were wasted.
Podolski chased an 88th-minute ball down the line in search of a second Arsenal goal, but Morgan Amalfitano was able to cut out his cross.
Arsenal will now turn their attentions to the final league game at Norwich next weekend as Albion focus on the midweek trip to Sunderland.
Selected player ratings
Olivier Giroud: A
Did well for opening goal and did well leading the line throughout. Held the ball up for team-mates and created some neat moves.
Mesut Ozil: B
Another meandering display from the Germany midfielder. Showed some good touches but should really be doing better against a deep-lying West Brom.
Saido Berahino: A-
Always looking for a chance to threaten the Arsenal goal, but ultimately struggled with attack seemingly not uppermost in the minds of team-mates.
Arsenal will round off their Premier League campaign at Norwich City next Sunday, ahead of the FA Cup final against Hull City.
West Brom will travel to Sunderland in midweek for their league game against the in-form Black Cats on Wednesday evening.
Thanks to all gunners for the great atmosphere at the emirates this season.— Mesut Özil (@MesutOzil1088) May 4, 2014
Chris Brunt's verdict on @WBAFCofficial's campaign: "We’re bitterly disappointed - we’ve had a poor season. I hope we’ll be stronger for it"— Premier League (@premierleague) May 4, 2014