Wilshere strike at West Brom puts Arsenal back on top

Arsenal's Jack Wilshere celebrates scoring an equalising goal to make it 1-1

Arsenal's Jack Wilshere celebrates scoring an equalising goal to make it 1-1 - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Premier League: West Brom 1 Arsenal 1

Jack Wilshere answered his detractors with a second-half equaliser at The Hawthorns to send Arsenal back to the top of the Premier League.

The England midfielder, who was left out of the Gunners’ starting line-up in midweek and then attracted criticism after he was pictured smoking outside a nightclub, fired home his first league goal for three years.

That cancelled out Claudio Yacob’s first-half header for West Brom and, although the draw ended the Gunners’ sequence of eight straight away wins in the Premier League, it was still enough to put them back above Liverpool on goals scored.

Arsenal managed to test home goalkeeper Bo Myhill only once in the first half, when Aaron Ramsey drilled a long-range effort through a crowd of players.

Otherwise, the Gunners’ only real opening came when Mesut Ozil’s pinpoint pass picked out the run of Kieran Gibbs, but the left-back lamped his finish over the bar.

Wojciech Szczesny did well to prevent his side from falling behind on 14 minutes, scrambling across to scoop the ball away after Saido Berahino’s shot spun wildly off Mathieu Flamini.

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But the Gunners keeper was powerless to prevent West Brom from taking a deserved lead after the visitors failed to clear a corner three minutes from the break.

Youssouf Mulumbu swept the ball wide to Morgan Amalfitano, who delivered a perfect cross to the near post for midfielder Yacob to steal between Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson and direct his header into the net.

Former Arsenal striker Nicolas Anelka squandered two opportunities to finish off his old club soon after the restart, failing to convert Berahino’s cross and then firing wide of the far post with just Szczesny to beat.

And Anelka had cause to regret those misses when the Gunners snatched a 63rd-minute equaliser, with substitute Tomas Rosicky laying off Olivier Giroud’s cross for Wilshere to crack a half-volley that skimmed off the shin of Jonas Olsson and into the bottom corner.

The Baggies responded well, with Szczesny diving to his right to beat away a full-blooded drive from right-back Billy Jones.

But Arsenal could also have added a second goal as Wilshere’s superb diagonal ball released Giroud, who tried to take it around Myhill, only for the keeper to recover and avert the danger.

Both sides continued to press for victory, with Myhill denying Flamini, and Laurent Koscielny somewhat fortunate to get away with barging Shane Long to the ground inside the Gunners’ penalty area late on.

Arsenal: Szczesny; Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Flamini, Arteta; Ramsey (Rosicky 59), Ozil, Wilshere; Giroud (Bendtner 85).