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Arsenal returned to the top of the Barclays Premier League on goals scored after coming from behind to claim a 1-1 draw at West Bromwich Albion.
Claudio Yacob headed the home side in front shortly before half-time, only for Jack Wilshere to equalise in the 63rd minute to earn his side a point. The result brought an end to Arsenal's run of eight consecutive away league victories but it was still enough to see Arsene Wenger's men leapfrog Liverpool to go back to the summit on goals scored.
West Brom head coach Steve Clarke was forced into two changes from the team that started last week’s victory at Manchester United, with Saido Berahino and Nicolas Anelka replacing the injured duo of Victor Anichebe and Scott Sinclair. Wenger also made two alterations from the midweek UEFA Champions League victory over Napoli, Carl Jenkinson coming in for the injured Bacary Sagna at right-back while Wilshere was preferred to Tomas Rosicky in midfield.
After a quiet start, the hosts were denied an opener in the 15th minute as Wojciech Szczesny dived to his right to keep out Berahino's effort. The visitors responded strongly, Mesut Ozil picking out Kieran Gibbs on the left-hand side of the area, but the full-back blazed his effort over.
Clear sights of goal were proving rare with Myhill not tested properly until the 40th minute, getting down to his right to deny Aaron Ramsey. But despite the visitors being on top, Yacob put West Brom in front three minutes before half-time, heading home Morgan Amalfitano's right-wing cross from six yards.
It could have been 2-0 a minute into the second half, Anelka getting his feet in a muddle after being picked out six yards from goal after good work down the left from Berahino. Arsenal responded immediately, with Wilshere firing high and wide after being played in by Olivier Giroud.
Anelka wasted another golden opportunity to double the lead in the 52nd minute after springing the offside trap from Liam Ridgewell's pass, but with just Szczesny to beat the ex-Arsenal man placed his effort wide of the right-hand post.
West Brom were punished for their wastefulness in the 63rd minute as Arsenal equalised. Giroud fed substitute Rosicky, whose lay-off was met first time by Wilshere 20 yards out, and his sweet strike took a slight deflection of Jonas Olsson's shin, with the ball deviating just enough to beat Myhill low to his left.
Giroud then volleyed wide when well placed in the 72nd minute before Billy Jones stung the palms of Szczesny with a rasping drive a minute later. Myhill did brilliantly to deny Giroud in the 75th minute when it looked as though the Frenchman had rounded the goalkeeper and would tuck the ball home.
West Brom head coach Steve Clarke: “I'm pleased with the players for another good game against another top team. On the back of what we did at Old Trafford four points from these two games is a good return for us. But it's not just the fact we're getting results against top teams it's that we're in the game. We look a good team. It was a good game between two good teams. I thought we more than deserved the point.
"At the start of the second half we had a couple of great opportunities to make it 2-0 and that might have been enough. Nicolas [Anelka] is experienced, he knows he was in the right position. He did almost everything right [with the second chance], he just put it the wrong side of the post, you're talking about inches. He knows they'll come if he keeps getting in those positions."
"We played really well. It was a good game, with two very good teams. The first half was more cagey with good football and common sense and we managed to get ourselves in front. Credit to Arsenal, they're up there for a reason: they've got good players. It was very open at the end, which was a bit nerve-racking, but at the end of the day you have to say a draw is a fair result."
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger: "Over the whole game, it's a fair point. Over the last half-an-hour, I have some regrets, because we could feel we had the opportunities to score a second goal. We again have shown character to come back into this game and in the second half being a goal down to equalise. It's a good position [first in the table] to start again after the [international] break.
"It required special resilience today because they didn't give us any space and they were were well organised and we needed to find something special to score. West Brom confirmed today why they won at Manchester United because they have good players in every position. They have many players who are good on the break and run with the ball, so they made it difficult and they defended very well.
“He [Wilshere] had trouble today to find the rhythm of the game, but he has character as well. He doesn't give up, he continues to play his game and got a great goal. I believe he was fouled a few times, pushed over and didn't get the fouls he deserved.”
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|14 Dec 2013||v Cardiff (A)|