Olivier Giroud came away from last night’s Europa League game against MOL Vidi with mixed emotions, pleased to have scored but frustrated we were unable to secure a sixth consecutive victory in this season’s competition.
It was a stunning free-kick by the French striker, who came on for the injured Alvaro Morata just before half-time, which earned us a point in Hungary, but despite the fact we had already booked our place in the next round prior to kick-off, the aim of the team was to bring our group-stage campaign to a winning conclusion.
Willian had opened the scoring, the Brazilian dispatching a trademark free-kick on the half-hour mark, but two goals either side of the break had given the hosts a 2-1 advantage prior to Giroud’s leveller.
‘It was good from me because I scored but I can’t be happy because we wanted the win,’ said Giroud. ‘We are a competitive team and we want to win every single game.
‘The problem was that we played against a very compact team, they defended very well in their half and we struggled a bit to get the ball high up the pitch like usual. They did well and deserved a point but at the end of the game we could have scored a third goal, it’s a shame, we had opportunities.
‘It was difficult because the pitch was a bit bobbly so we struggled to play one-touch and two-touch, we had some difficulties creating chances. In the end we could have won but I think a draw was a fair result because they were still dangerous until the end.’
Giroud has now scored four goals in his last three Europa League games, and last night’s strike, a sublime free-kick, was undoubtedly the pick of the bunch.
‘I’m happy with my free-kick,’ he said. ‘I don’t normally have the chance to take them, Willi is in front, but I asked if I could take it and luckily it went in.’
With the group stage now complete, we wait to find out who we will face in the first knockout round when the draw is made on Monday.
The fact some of the eliminated Champions League teams now drop into the tournament means we are likely to be seriously tested when the competition resumes in February, according to Giroud.
'The group was, maybe on paper, not so hard, but we normally won the games by one or two goals, so they were always tough games,' the forward said.
'Even in this game, MOL Vidi had chances until the end and they scored an amazing goal as well through another French guy, Nego, so we are
happy to have won the group but we know we are going to face strong opposition in the future.
‘Our target is obviously to win it [the competition], we know we will have strong opposition after the group stage, but that's the target.'