Penalties give Arsenal win but replay shows Cazorla dived
Spaniards on target: Gunners’ Mikel Arteta scores twice and Chelsea’s Torres shines under Benitez
Arsenal put their recent bad run behind them with a 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion at the Emirates. It was the Gunners’ first league win in four outings – since the 5-2 defeat of Spurs on 17 November – and it all came down to a brace of penalties from Mikel Arteta.
The Spaniard scored from the spot midway through each half to inflict on the Baggies their third consecutive league defeat. If the second penalty was never in doubt - Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain felled by Chris Brunt as he surged towards the visitors’ goal - the first was highly dubious.
Referee Mike Jones pointed to the spot after Santi Cazorla went down under a challenge from Steven Reid, but TV replays showed the Spanish playmaker was guilty of diving. "I think we were hard done by,” said West Brom manager Steve Clarke. “There was clear daylight between Steven Reid and Santi Cazorla for the first penalty… it was the easy way out when you come to a big stadium and the crowd are on your back.”
Nonetheless the result lifts Arsenal into sixth place, just two points behind West Brom, and manager Arsene Wenger declared himself pleased with his side’s endeavour. “Overall we played well, created chances and kept a clean sheet,” said the Frenchman. “There was no room for dropping any points and I feel it is a positive day.” Asked if he thought the Gunners had got away with a bit of good fortune with their first penalty, Wenger replied: “A little bit, yes.”
Chelsea also got back to winning ways with their first league victory in eight games, and once more Fernando Torres was among the goals. The Spanish striker, who scored twice in the Blues midweek thrashing of Nordsjaelland in the Champions League, netted two more as Chelsea ran out 3-1 winners away at Sunderland.
The victory means the Blues are now four points adrift of second-place Manchester City (who play leaders Manchester United later today) while Sunderland dropped into the relegation zone for the first time this season despite Adam Johnson’s wonderful strike in the second-half. By then, however, Chelsea had sealed the game with a third goal from Juan Mata to give Rafa Benitez his first league victory since replacing Roberto Di Matteo last month.
Afterwards Torres indicated that the Blues are already beginning to benefit from the presence of Benitez, also his manager during his glory days at Liverpool. “We are playing a bit different now, and we do not pass the ball as much as we did in the final third and we play a bit more direct. We are attacking more and creating more,” explained Torres. “Normally, it takes some time with a new manager but the last two results will give us more confidence."
Elsewhere and Norwich extended their unbeaten run in the Premier League to nine games with a 4-3 win over Swansea. The high-flying Swans, undefeated in their six previous league matches, were brought back down to earth in a thrilling encounter at the Liberty Stadium.
Norwich roared into a three-goal lead thanks to Steven Whittaker, Sebastien Bassong and Grant Holt but then Swansea struck back with strikes from Michu and Jonathan de Guzman. Robert Snodgrass gave the Canaries some breathing space with a stinging free-kick before Michu grabbed a late consolation for Swansea, a result that sees them bumped down to eighth spot.
In other results it finished goalless between Aston Villa and Stoke while a goal from Southampton’s Jason Puncheon was all that separated the Saints and Reading.
Finally, QPR gained a precious point away at Wigan in a 2-2 draw that extends Harry Redknapp’s unbeaten streak in charge of Rangers to three games. But still without a win this season, the result leaves Rangers pinned at the foot of the table, two points shy of Reading.
“It's still all to play for because other teams are not winning,” said Redknapp. “It's not impossible but it's going to be hard. I don't want to wait until the last 10 games to start winning. A win now would make all the difference." ·