West Brom 1-1 Arsenal: Jay Rodriguez's controversial penalty denies Gunners
By Gerard Brand
Last Updated: 01/01/18 7:23am
Jay Rodriguez struck a controversial late penalty as West Brom stole a 1-1 draw against Arsenal in the last Premier League game of 2017.
Just minutes after Alexis Sanchez's free-kick had deflected off James McClean and into his own goal for what looked to be Arsenal's winner (83), Calum Chambers was adjudged to have handled in the area, allowing Rodriguez to step up and equalise (89).
Alex Iwobi had struck wide in the first half and Ben Foster denied Alexandre Lacazette in the second, before the late drama at The Hawthorns.
West Brom: Foster (6), Dawson (6), Hegazi (7), Evans (6), Gibbs (6), Phillips (6), Livermore (6), Barry (6), Brunt (5), Rodriguez (7), Robson-Kanu (6)
Subs: McClean (5), Krychowiak (5), Nyom (5)
Arsenal: Cech (6), Koscielny (6), Chambers (6), Mustafi (6), Bellerin (6), Xhaka (6), Wilshere (6), Kolasinac (5), Sanchez (7), Iwobi (5), Lacazette (7)
Subs: Maitland-Niles (6), Mertesacker (5), Welbeck (5)
Man of the match: Alexis Sanchez
The result means Arsenal are fifth, three points off the top four going into 2018, while West Brom are 19th, above bottom side Swansea on goal difference.
During an open start, Lacazette saw an effort deflect just wide of goal, before Iwobi should have done better having curled high and wide in space in the box.
Iwobi's effort from the right of the box then forced a good save out of West Brom goalkeeper Foster, who saw the ball late through a crowd of players, but both defences ultimately cancelled each other out in the first half.
There was just one change apiece at the Hawthorns as Salomon Rondon missed out through injury, replaced by Hal Robson-Kanu. For Arsenal, Mesut Ozil was also out with a knee injury, meaning Alex Iwobi came in.
Arsenal pressed after the break as Foster then got down superbly to block Lacazette's left-footed effort from inside the box after a neat one-two with Iwobi on the edge.
Petr Cech was finally forced into action as Rodriguez found space 20 yards from goal, but his shot was beaten away well by the Arsenal goalkeeper.
Arsenal looked to have grabbed a winner seven minutes from time as Sanchez won a free-kick on the edge of the box. He stepped up to take it low, and the ball looked to be heading wide before deflecting off McClean and past the stranded Foster.
All 10 outfield Arsenal players celebrated with Sanchez, after much debate midweek about divided celebrations in the win at Crystal Palace.
But just minutes later at the other end, Mike Dean controversially awarded West Brom a penalty after former Arsenal defender Kieran Gibbs had touched the ball onto Chambers' arm. Chambers had his arms close to his chest in a natural position, and despite huge protests from the Arsenal players, the decision stood before Rodriguez slotted home low.
The protests continued after the final whistle, with Cech shown a yellow card, as Arsene Wenger's record 812th Premier League game in charge ended on a sour note.
Alan Pardew: "When you keep talking to a team about doing the right things, application and 'learning your luck,' when it doesn't happen it is hard.
"But we got something today at last. The decision is a tough one on Arsenal. I've seen it and wow, he could not have given it, could have given it, whatever, but we deserved the break. If we put that much commitment and effort in, we will get enough breaks to win."
Arsene Wenger: "It's disappointing to see that but what can you do? You can talk and talk and talk but it doesn't change anything. I would like to remind that I did fight very hard with David Dein [former FA vice-chairman] many years ago that the referees become professional but their level, unfortunately, doesn't go up."
"It's difficult to accept. It's more than the decision that is involved in that and it is not the first time it has happened. But it's best we don't talk about. We know deeply what it is going on and we just have to deal with it."
The pundit - Jamie Redknapp
"It's a horrendous decision, it really is. It's a grey area in football right now because there's no doubt at all, that he's not put his hand to the ball, that's ball to hand. We want consistency in the games.
"What defenders tend to do nowadays is put their hands behind their backs, just to take it out the equation but there his arms are in a natural position, he's balanced and if anything he doesn't want that ball to his arm, it's a really poor, poor decision."
- Arsenal have scored in all 24 of their Premier League games against West Brom - the best 100 per cent record in the competition.
- Petr Cech has failed to save any of the 13 penalties he has faced in all competitions for Arsenal - only two 'keepers have faced more at a single club without saving one (Brad Friedel at Aston Villa, Craig Gordon at Sunderland both 15).
- Albion are now winless in 19 Premier League games - only three clubs have ever had a longer winless run in the competition (Derby 32, Sunderland 26 and Norwich 21).
- Arsene Wenger took charge of his 811th Premier League game - more than any other manager in the competition (W468 D198 L145).
Man of the match - Alexis Sanchez
On a day when Arsenal were not at their best, everything went through Sanchez in the final third. The Chile international was positive every time he got the ball and it was his free-kick that deflected in off McClean for Arsenal's goal.
Sanchez had six shots (three more than any other Arsenal player) and made three key passes (more than any other Arsenal player). He remains a crucial player for the Gunners even as he enters the final six months of his contract.
Arsenal now host Chelsea on Wednesday evening, live on Sky Sports Premier League from 7.45pm, before going to Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup on Sunday. West Brom go to West Ham on Tuesday evening, before a trip to Exeter in the FA Cup on Saturday.