Arsenal slump to defeat at West Brom – and lose two more players to injury
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West Brom 2 Arsenal 1
Arsenal’s midfield injury crisis worsened at The Hawthorns as they slid to their first Premier League defeat for two months.
The Gunners – who were already missing four midfield players through injury – lost Francis Coquelin early on with a knee problem and then saw his replacement, Mikel Arteta, limp off as well.
That completed a miserable afternoon for Arteta, who put through his own net to hand West Brom victory after James Morrison had cancelled out Olivier Giroud’s opener – with Santi Cazorla missing a penalty late on.
Albion’s best moment in a turgid first half hour came when James McClean got behind Hector Bellerin and whipped over a dangerous low cross that none of his team-mates could capitalise on.
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At the other end, Arsenal’s only opportunity fell to Alexis Sanchez, who forced a diving save from Boaz Myhill with a free-kick after Stephane Sessegnon had sent Nacho Monreal flying on the edge of the box.
And it was another free-kick – won by Sanchez – that brought about the opening goal on 28 minutes, with Mesut Ozil floating in the ball for the unmarked Giroud to glance a header into the net.
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Kieran Gibbs might have doubled the Gunners’ lead soon afterwards, curling a shot over the bar after Sanchez had scampered clear and set him up.
But instead the Baggies levelled just seven minutes after conceding as Chris Brunt matched Ozil for delivery and found Morrison, who steered his volley beyond Petr Cech.
And the home side went ahead with five minutes remaining in the first half when McClean escaped again on the left and cut the ball back, with the retreating Arteta turning it over the line.
There was little opportunity for the Spaniard to make amends as he hobbled off early in the second half – just after Ozil had been inches away from making it 2-2 with a low effort against the base of the post.
Sanchez teed up Gibbs again, but his shot was charged down by Craig Dawson, while Jonny Evans’ timely challenge denied Mathieu Flamini a pop at goal from close range.
Arsenal played their last card by sending on Joel Campbell – and the Costa Rican squandered a golden opportunity to make it 2-2, horribly miscuing a half-volley from Cazorla’s cross.
However, the Gunners survived a close call when Jonas Olsson’s header rattled the crossbar and bounced down, but the ball was adjudged to have stayed in play.
It looked as if the visitors might get out of jail seven minutes from time after Brunt bundled Sanchez over inside the penalty area, but Cazorla stumbled as he took the spot-kick and speared the ball over the bar.
Although Arsenal laid siege to the home goal in the closing stages and Laurent Koscielny brought a late save from Myhill, they were unable to find a way through.
Arsenal: Cech; Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin (Arteta 14, Flamini 49), Cazorla; Sanchez, Ozil, Gibbs (Campbell 63); Giroud.