Arsene Wenger's big day ends in controversy after Jay Rodriguez penalty cancels out late Alexis Sanchez strike

West Bromwich Albion 1 Arsenal 1: The Chilean's deflected free-kick looked to have secured all three points for the visitors but the Baggies were awarded a late penalty, converted by Rodriguez

Steve Madeley
The Hawthorns
Sunday 31 December 2017 19:10
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Jay Rodriguez levels from the spot after Calum Chambers was ruled to have handled the ball in the penalty area
Jay Rodriguez levels from the spot after Calum Chambers was ruled to have handled the ball in the penalty area

It was supposed to be a day for Arsene Wenger to celebrate, but Mike Dean ensured the Arsenal manager’s celebrations after his record-breaking match will be far from joyous.

On the afternoon when Wenger broke Sir Alex Ferguson’s record for the most Premier League games as a boss, he watched his team denied victory by a controversial late penalty.

Alexis Sanchez had shrugged off speculation about his future to give the Gunners an 83rd-minute lead in an otherwise forgettable encounter.

But six minutes later Jay Rodriguez equalised for West Brom as the Premier League’s bottom club collected a draw their dogged display merited, even if the manner of its arrival was hugely contentious.

Wenger was left fuming and received a long lecture from Dean after the referee had stunned the visitors by punishing Calum Chambers for handball.

Alexis Sanchez celebrates breaking the deadlock

Just six minutes into the game, after a decent start from Arsenal, it was the home side who might have taken the lead when Matt Phillips found space on the right and crossed for Jay Rodriguez.

The striker leapt highest but his header was saved by a diving Petr Cech.

Cech handed the Baggies another chance moments later when he spilled a high cross by Kieran Gibbs at the feet of Hal Robson-Kanu.

The Wales striker’s effort was blocked and Arsenal then snuffed out Jake Livermore’s effort to keep the move alive.

Arsenal broke immediately and fed Alexandre Lacazette, whose shot from the edge of the penalty area was deflected behind for a corner.

On 16 minutes another chance came for the visitors when a neat pass from Alexis Sanchez found Alex Iwobi just outside the penalty area.

Alexandre Lacazette looks to bring the ball under control

The young winger turned away from Jonny Evans and into space but curled his effort fractionally high and wide.

Albion’s first-half passing was pleasing and Jake Livermore carved out a half-chance when he tricked his way down the right flank and crossed towards Robson-Kanu, who failed to bring the ball under control.

But the visitors still looked threatening on the break and home goalkeeper Ben Foster was forced into two saves from long-range efforts, first from Granit Xhaka and then from Iwobi.

The hosts began the second half on the front foot with Rodriguez forcing Calum Chambers into a desperate challenge.

And defender Ahmed Hegazi sent an overhead kick over the crossbar in a scramble at a corner.

Arsenal had begun the second half dreadfully but they might have led on the hour-mark when Lacazette came to life following an exchange of passes with Iwobi on the edge of the penalty area.

Jack Wilshere rises highest to head the ball

Lacazette weaved his way past two challenges and hit a low shot that brought a smart save from Foster.

And when Sanchez picked out Lacazette with a clever pass moments later, the Frenchman poked a shot inches wide.

Arsenal were increasingly desperate for a breakthrough with Iwobi trying an ambitious shot from distance that Foster held comfortably.

West Brom signalled they had settled for a draw when Robson-Kanu was replaced by defender Allan Nyom but they could have had more when Livermore’s near-post effort from a cross by substitute James McClean was held low down by Cech.

And Cech was then forced to beat away a shot from distance by Rodriguez.

Arsene Wenger remonstrates with Mike Dean after West Brom's late penalty

But with seven minutes remaining the dam was breached as Arsenal took the lead with a free-kick won and converted by Sanchez.

The Chilean was tripped on the edge of the penalty area and his free-kick struck McClean in the Albion wall and found its way past Foster.

For minutes later the scores were level, however, as Chambers was penalised harshly for handling a Kieran Gibbs cross and Rodriguez drilled the spot-kick low past Cech.

Wenger lost his cool on the touchline and was subjected to a lengthy lecture from referee Dean.

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