Jay Rodriguez netted a late penalty against Arsenal at the Hawthorns on New Years Eve to snatch a point for West Bromwich Albion.
The Baggies secured their fourth point under new boss Alan Pardew with the English forward’s 89th minute spot-kick after Calum Chambers was adjudged to have handled the ball in the penalty area. The strike cancelled out Arsenal’s late goal of their own as Alexis Sánchez’s free kick found its way into the net via a touch from Baggies midfielder James McClean.
Arsenal hunt down top four
Arsene Wenger’s men enjoyed a fast start at the Hawthorns and could have been ahead quickly but Alexandre Lacazette was unlucky to see his effort deflect just wide of goal. Alex Iwobi then found space in the West Brom penalty area but wasted the opportunity by sending his shot high and wide of goal.
The Nigerian did however force a good save out of Albion keeper Ben Foster who did well to react to the ball coming through a crowd of players. Arsenal sustained a big blow mid-way through the first-half as defender Sead Kolašinac had to be withdrawn through injury and was replaced by Ainsley Maitland-Niles. The tempo of the game nonetheless did decrease dramatically by half-time and both sides went into the break level.
Severe lack of quality
The quality of play following the interval did not drastically improve the affair that had become increasingly cagey. The hosts however were given a slight glimpse of goal as Jonny Evans knocked down the Ahmed Hegazi from a corner. It was a tough chance for the Egyptian however as he swivelled but shot well over the bar of Petr Čech’s goal.
Lacazette was then to have a shot in venom as good combination play saw the French international bear down on Ben Foster. The former Lyon man though struck straight at the stopper’s outstretched leg and West Brom survived. Alexis Sánchez was then the next to go close but could only put his low effort just wide.
Gunners get fortunate
The parity however was not set to last very long. Craig Dawson brought down the Chilean wide-man just outside the penalty area and was booked as a result. Sánchez himself stepped up but looked to be hitting wide only for the ball to take a huge deflection off of James McClean and nestle into the back of the net.
However, Alan Pardew’s men were given their equaliser in just as fortunate circumstances. Former Arsenal defender Kieran Gibbs looked to get a cross into the box only for the ball to strike Calum Chambers. Referee, Mike Dean, pointed to the spot to give the Baggies the chance to earn a late and unlikely point. Jay Rodriguez fired the ball straight down the middle to ensure both sides shared the points following a dramatic conclusion.
Whilst Arsene Wenger will be aggrieved with what looked like a controversial penalty shout, the Gunners cannot complain too much. The visitors did not create all that much and luckily lead. They end 2017 with a point and in fifth position in the Premier League, three point soff the top four. They next do battle with Chelsea on Wednesday.
The hosts meanwhile will be delighted with the point. They have soo far found life under Alan Pardew difficult but the draw and defensive solidarity give them optimism for greater things in 2018. They remain in the relegation zone but are only three points from safety ahead next week’s huge clash with West Bromwich Albion.
West Bromwich Albion: Foster (6); Dawson (5), Hegazi (6), Evans (6), Gibbs (6); Phillips (6) (Krychowiak (6), 72′), Livermore (5), Barry (6), Brunt (5) (McClean (5), 72′); Rodriguez (7), Robson-Kanu (5) (Nyom (N/A), 75′).
Arsenal: Čech (6); Koscielny (6) (Mertesacker (6), 72′), Chambers (5), Mustafi (7); Bellerin (6), Xhaka (6), Wilshere (6), Kolašinac (5) (Maitland-Niles (6), 37′); Sánchez (7), Iwobi (5) (Welbeck (5), 74′), Lacazette (7).
Goals: McClean OG (83′), Rodriguez PEN (89′)
Referee: Mike Dean
Yellow Cards: Evans (34′), Mustafi (58′), Brunt (59′), Dawson (82′), Wilshere (88′), Čech (90+5)
Red Cards: N/A
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