Arsenal 2 West Brom 0: A Tale of Two Penalties
There has been so much fuss in the wake of Arsenal’s recent run of poor results and many had hoped that the Gunners would have enough in the tank top see out an over-achieving West Brom side that has been a surprise package all season long. With so many first-team players rested from that shocker at Athens, Arsene Wenger welcomed a host of familiar faces for the crucial home tie against West Brom.
Gervinho has been a pain to watch in recent times and he was his usual annoying self yet again in the Emirates sunshine. Right from the onset, the Ivorian had a chance when the West Brom defense failed to deal with Santi Cazorla’s corner but he fired his shot wide. Shortly afterwards, the visitors lost Liam Ridgewell as he succumbed to an injury, before being replaced by Goran Popov.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain took on his marker before supplying a cut back to Cazorla but the Spaniard blasted his effort over the bar. With Arsenal failing to take the initiative, West Brom almost punished them when Youssouf Mulumbu located Chris Brunt with a nice pass. The West Brom skipper sent a curler goalwards but it missed by a lick of paint.
Arsenal grabbed the lead in a somewhat fictitious fashion. Cazorla fashioned a chance for himself in the box before dueling with Steven Reid. The maestro made mince meat out of Reid but the West Brom midfielder made a fatal error in swinging his leg in Cazorla’s direction. Cazorla had probably anticipated that Reid was bringing his leg, so he wasted no time in hitting the turf for a glorious dive.
Mikel Arteta had come under the spotlight for all the wrong reasons following his crucial penalty miss against Fulham a few weeks ago. This time, the Spaniard got it right, blasting the ball into the back of the net with a shot through the middle.
Kieran Gibbs drifted forward before crossing the ball into West Brom’s danger area. Gervinho was the first player to attack the ball but his header was awkward to say the least. Arsenal launched another counter attack with Gervinho in the thick of things yet again, he dallied on the ball before sending a teasing pass into the six-yard box but Jack Wilshere sliding effort went wide off the mark.
The Ox got goalside and blasted a shot that was intercepted by Gervinho. The Ivorian had an extra touch before firing a low drive heading for the bottom corner but Boaz Myhill was on hand to make a decent save. The West Brom defense mopped up the pieces afterwards.
Late in the first half, Oxlade-Chamberlain braced himself up for a Goal of the Season contender but he killed a bird in the sky with his proposed effort on goal.
Arsenal started the second half on a brighter note with a series of attacking play that reminded the fans of the old Arsenal. The Gunners switched midfield to attack in a blistering fashion with Giroud and Wilshere in the thick of things but when the ball got to the Ox, his cross brushed the woodwork and went out of play.
Gibbs connected with Gervinho yet again with a nice cross but his header was wayward. On the other end, Thomas Vermaelen did very well to block a Zoltan Gera cross that would have crept into Arsenal’s danger area. Wilshere and Giroud teed up a chance for Gervinho but the Ivorian miscued his effort at the vital moment.
Arsenal increased their tally when the Ox robbed Popov off the ball before drifting into the box. Chris Brunt’s attempt to get the ball was pretty much disappointing as he clearly scythed the Ox down, leaving the ref no choice but to point to the spot yet again. I can remember when Arsenal went through an entire season without receiving any penalty at the Emirates, but in bizarre fashion, we witnessed tho in a game for the home side.
Mikel Arteta braced himself up to take the spot kick but Giroud appeared in the box, asking his vice-skipper to give him a chance to increase his Premier League tally. The last time Giroud took a spot kick, the goalie guessed the right way and Arteta probably had that in mind, which made him decline Giroud’s offer.
The Spanish midfielder fired his shot through the middle and went to celebrate in front of the Emirates faithful. While his teammates ran to celebrate with him, I noticed Giroud heading straight to the center circle. Maybe it was just me though.
Wenger withdrew the Ox for Coquelin to add steel to the midfield as the goal injected some life into West Brom. Arsenal had a free kick on the edge of the area but Arteta scuffed his chance of getting a hat-trick with a poor attempt of a free kick. Tomas Rosicky came on for Gervinho to have a quick run-out.
West Brom threatened twice with a long-range missile from Markus Rosenberg and a poor header from Romelu Lukaku. Lukas Podolski came on for Santi Cazorla right at the death and he was to be involved in some action straight away.
The German teed up a chance for Wilshere and after evading his marker, his shot was blocked. Wilshere in turn, provided a chance for Podolski late on, but the German prodded his shot over the bar from barely six yards out. For a player of Podolski’s quality, that would go down as a howler.
That miss didn’t really matter as Mike Jones’ final whistle brought Arsenal’s fruitless Premier League run to an end. The home side began the game five places and five points behind West Brom. The win propelled Arsenal to sixth place, putting them within touching distance of West Brom and fierce rivals, Tottenham.
Arsene Wenger answered a couple of questions in his post-match interview ranging from the team’s overall performance, Cazorla’s roel in winning the first penalty, squandering chances and his team’s response to criticism. The wily ol’ fox was his usual self, giving nothing to the media Vultures.
This victory was highly needed and it will give the Gunners a chance the much-needed confidence boost to press on as the season progress. A Capital One quarterfinal fixture against Bradford City comes up next and Wenger will be given a chance to rest some tired legs out there,
“I’ll rotate a little bit, yes. For example Sagna, he has played today with a very bad ankle. He is such a tough boy that he said he could play. He will be rested on Tuesday, maybe one or two more. But we will go with a strong squad, we are in the quarter-final and we have an opportunity to go through. We want to take it.”
Time to brace myself for the much-anticipated Manchester derby.
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