Olivier Giroud proves big game credentials in Derby della Madonnina

Craig Vickers
Olivier Giroud turned the Derby della Madonnina on its head
Olivier Giroud turned the Derby della Madonnina on its head / Marco Luzzani/GettyImages

It was as if the flow of the game, the absence of his influence, the slow deterioration of AC Milan's Scudetto bid, all converged to produce that special storyline.

Milan were going down with a whimper in the second Derby della Madonnina of the campaign. Samir Handanovic was yet to be tested in the Inter goal as the Nerazzurri bossed the game after a first half onslaught had edged them rightfully ahead.

Then Olivier Giroud happened.

A trait which has characterised his career, as the chips were down against the Frenchman, he puffed out his chest and provided the moments of ectasy for the Milan faithful. In two flashes of his left foot, the 35-year-old blew open the Scudetto race.

Few forwards in European football - especially those whose Premier League careers spanned nearly a decade - have divided opinion as much as Giroud.

At Arsenal, the Frenchman was seen as a ceiling on the Gunners' ambition in the late Arsene Wenger era. Doorstep 50 Arsenal fans and they will, at great pain, recall the sight of Giroud slumped on the Emirates Stadium surface as Monaco defeated the Gunners 3-1 in a supposedly gimme Champions League knockout tie in 2015.

They will similarly be reminded of their title bid in 2013/14, which was undermined against Jose Mourinho's Chelsea just days before Christmas with Giroud spurning a hatful of gilt-edged chances in a goalless draw.

Equally, however, the consistency which Giroud displayed across his Gunners career isn't taken for granted. The Arsenal faithful have, in the meantime, watched Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's career in north London peter out, while Alexandre Lacazette has carved out a reputation as a forward who isn't expected to score.

It was a different dynamic at Chelsea for the Frenchman. With a higher calibre of player at Stamford Bridge, the spotlight never shined as brightly on the forward as it did across London. And yet the contributions infront of goal remained broadly consistent.

At a club who are never shy to shout about their Champions League success, Giroud became a specialist in the competition. His four-goal haul away to Sevilla in the group stages last campaign was quickly superseded by his memorable overhead kick winner at the Wanda Metropolitano against Atletico Madrid to send Chelsea on their way to the last eight.

Giroud always managed to combine ingenuity with a decisive streak. Who can forget his scorpion kick for Arsenal in their victory over Crystal Palace on New Year's Day back in 2017?

Still, doubts were cast when Milan moved for the Frenchman in the summer. With Zlatan Ibrahimovic entering his 40s and unable to remain fit, the Rossoneri required a talisman to catapult a young and talented team to Scudetto glory.

In typical Giroud fashion, he arrived in this pivotal juncture of the season as not quite the apple of the Milan faithful's eye. The Frenchman had netted just once since October and had hitherto struggled to dislodge an ageing Ibrahimovic.

And yet, when the chips were down, and Milan required a hero to rescue their title challenge, it was Giroud who flexed his muscles. The Rossoneri are dreaming to Scudetto glory and they have Giroud to thank.