Soccer

Arteta's two penalties give Arsenal victory over West Brom

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Associated Press
12/8/2012 1:58:17 PM
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LONDON -- Mikel Arteta halted Arsenal's three-game winless run in the Premier League on Saturday by scoring two penalties in a 2-0 victory over West Bromwich.

Arteta's first goal in the 26th minute came after Santi Cazorla went down lightly under Steven Reid's challenge, enraging West Brom manager Steve Clarke who said there was "zero contact."

"I'm not sure what the referee saw, but it was a bad decision for us," he said. "It changed the shape of the afternoon. It could have been a nervous afternoon for Arsenal, at 0-0 they hadn't created too much."

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger defended Cazorla against allegations of diving.

"I'm sorry if it wasn't a penalty, but I have spoken to Santi and he said he had been touched and lost his balance," Wenger said. "I don't want to see that (diving), but he told me he had been touched."

But there was no disputing Arsenal's second penalty when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was brought down by Chris Brunt in the 64th.

After rising to third place following four straight wins, West Brom has now lost three in a row to drop to fifth.

A second victory in seven matches for the Gunners lifted them provisionally up four places to sixth, two points behind West Brom. Seventh-place Everton hosts Tottenham on Sunday.

An alarming decline has engulfed Emirates Stadium in negativity in recent months -- a position acknowledged by captain Thomas Vermaelen in the matchday program as he urged fans to "stick together."

But after enduring their worst start to a league campaign since Wenger arrived 16 years ago, the Gunners will take comfort from beating a side above them.

"You could see we were ready for a fight and we knew absolutely we had to win this game," Wenger said. "And we did it."

Early in Saturday's match, though, Arsenal's finishing was wayward: Gervinho sliced wide after hesitation at the back before Cazorla struck wide and sent a first-time volley over after Oxlade-Chamberlain darted down the right flank.

"The only negative of the day is that we didn't convert our chances very well," Wenger said. "But we created chances and we didn't in the last game (a 2-1 loss to Olympiakos). If we are a bit more serene we will convert these chances better."

West Brom's first effort on goal ended with Brunt's strike swerving just around Wojciech Szczesny's post.

Arsenal's breakthrough came when Cazorla appeared to dive after being clipped slightly on the shin by Reid, with a favourable decision from referee Mike Jones leading to Arteta scoring from the spot.

"I don't want a witch-hunt on referees, in this country we have fantastic referees and a fantastic group that work hard to make the game the game it is," Clarke said. "We have to try to work as hard as we can with the referees. In this game, unfortunately, it was the poorest of a really good group. We have a number of good referees -- we have to find good more referees."

Arsenal could have extended its lead when Gervinho worked his way into the penalty area and then cut the ball back across the face of goal only for Jack Wilshere to shoot wide, scant reward for a strong performance from the midfielder who returned from a long-term injury in October.

"He is getting closer to the player we know he is," Wenger said of Wilshere.

West Brom appealed fruitlessly for a penalty when Per Mertesacker handled a high ball.

Arsenal, though, was on top, with the first half ending with Gervinho's low shot turned around the post by goalkeeper Boaz Myhill.

The chances continued to fall to Arsenal after the break, with Gervinho heading wide and then missing the ball as he attempted to shoot from close range.

To find the net again, Arsenal needed another penalty, with Arteta firing the ball down the middle of the net after Oxlade-Chamberlain had tumbled in the area after being halted by Brunt.

"I've got no complaints with the second penalty but there was a foul in the build-up," Clarke said.

West Brom didn't give up though, with Markus Rosenberg's low effort blocked by Szczesny and Romelu Lukaku heading wide.

Mikel Arteta (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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