Arsenal lose ground in West Brom defeat
West Brom 2
Arsenal missed the chance to go top of the Premier League as they suffered a 2-1 loss away to West Bromwich Albion yesterday France international Olivier Giroud headed his ninth goal in 11 matches from a Mesut Ozil free-kick to give Arsene Wenger’s visitors hope of a sixth win in seven league matches. But two lax pieces of defending before half-time, and a late Santi Cazorla penalty miss, allowed West Brom to claim victory-their first over Arsenal at the Hawthorns since 2005. James Morrison got free to turn in Chris Brunt’s free-kick with his shin, before Mikel Arteta diverted a cross into his own net via his arm and his thigh.
It was not the result Arsenal wanted ahead of Tuesday’s must-win Champions League tie against Dinamo Zagreb. Giroud, along with France team-mate Laurent Koscielny, was named in Arsenal’s starting line-up after the trauma of being caught up in the Paris attacks eight days ago, in which 130 people died. Wenger had noted in the build-up to the match that Koscielny, in particular, had been deeply affected by the attacks, which included a number of explosions outside the Stade de France, where France were playing Germany in a friendly. Arsenal’s French manager, though, was satisfied that the central defender was in the right frame of mind to play. The injury-hit visitors suffered an early setback as midfielder Francis Coquelin limped off after jarring his knee in a challenge with Claudio Yacob. They did, though, have the better of the opening half-hour, with Alexis Sanchez’s floated free-kick well held by keeper Boaz Myhill, and were first to score. Albion’s defense switched off as Ozil’s free-kick, swung in from the right, was glanced in by an unmarked Giroud.
Arsenal’s advantage lasted just five minutes, however, as they were undone by a set-piece at the other end. Brunt lifted in a free-kick from just inside the visitors’ half, and Morrison sneaked in behind Hector Bellerin to volley the equalizer from seven yards. It got worse for Arsenal five minutes before half-time, with the excellent James McClean doing the damage. McClean, who had caused problems with an early low ball that whizzed across goal, burst past Bellerin on to Salomon Rondon’s pass, and drove in a delivery that was turned into his own net by Arteta, on as a substitute for the injured Coquelin. —AFP
WEST BROMWICH: West Brom’s Solomon Rondon (right) battles with Arsenal’s Mathieu Flamini (front left) and Arsenal’s Per Mertesacker during the English Premier League soccer match between West Bromwich Albion and Arsenal at the Hawthorns yesterday. — AP