London: Arsenal secured their first win in five matches by beating West Brom at Emirates Stadium, dampening the visitors’ hopes of a top-six finish.
It was a tale of two controversial penalties in north London, with both dispatched in similar fashion by Mikel Arteta. In the first instance, Mike Jones pointed to the spot after Santi Cazorla cut inside Steven Reid and threw himself to the floor, although replays showed that no contact was made.
The second penalty was correctly awarded for a foul on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain by Chris Brunt, but the Baggies will again feel aggrieved as it appeared that the Gunners’ winger pushed Goran Popov to the ground just moments before the decision.
Arsene Wenger made three changes to the side that lost 2-0 to Swansea last weekend, as Bacary Sagna, Olivier Giroud and Oxlade-Chamberlain replaced Carl Jenkinson, Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott.
The visitors made replaced four of the team defeated by Stoke, with Brunt, James Morrison, and Peter Odemwingie all returning to the starting XI. Liam Ridgewell was also brought in, but was forced off in the opening 10 minutes through injury.
The opening exchanges were hotly contested, with both sides keen to avoid going behind early on. But it was Arsenal who went the closest to taking the lead, as Gervinho spurned an early opportunity 18 yards from goal and Cazorla fired wide from just outside the penalty area.
Cazorla then went close again, as Oxlade-Chamberlain raced down the right before hooking a cross deep into the box. The ball sat up nicely for the Spaniard to volley towards goal, but Steven Reid pressured him into smashing his shot over the bar.
The visitors then had a chance of their own, as Brunt attempted the audacious. The winger attempted to curl a first-time shot into Wojciech Szczesny’s top corner and was unlucky to narrowly miss the target.
The deadlock was eventually broken courtesy of an Arteta penalty. Cazorla cut into the box from the left, before dipping inside Reid and going down theatrically. Replays show that there was no contact from the right-back, but Mike Jones pointed to the spot and Arteta rifled the ball past Boaz Myhill.
The Gunners were then inches away from doubling their lead, as Gervinho embarked upon a mazy run into the area before drilling the ball across the six-yard box. Jack Wilshere slid in, in an attempt to make contact, but in spite of an open net gaping in front of him the 20-year-old could only manage to poke the ball wide.
The hosts started the second half the better side, keeping relentless pressure on the Baggies’ goal. Oxlade-Chamberlain was unlucky not to score with a chance from a narrow angle, while Gervinho passed up a glorious opportunity with an air shot from six yards out.
Arsenal then made it two, as the referee awarded a second penalty for a clear foul by Brunt on Oxlade-Chamberlain. However, the decision was not without controversy, as the Gunners’ winger appeared to push Popov to the ground in the play leading up to the foul. Arteta stepped up once again and smashed the ball straight down the middle to end their poor recent run.
First Published: Sunday, December 09, 2012, 08:26