A last-gasp penalty from Jay Rodriguez cancelled out a James McClean own-goal as we rounded off 2017 with a frustrating draw against West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns.
In a game of few chances, Alexandre Lacazette and Alex Iwobi came closest to making the breakthrough for us, but there seemed to be no way through against a resolute home side.
But seven minutes from the end, Alexis was fouled right on the edge of the area and stepped up himself to send a low shot – via a significant deflection – into the bottom corner.
But right at the end, former Gunner Kieran Gibbs flicked the ball into Calum Chambers’ hand in the area and a spot kick, which Rodriguez converted as both teams had to settle for a share of the spoils.
In a low-key first half, the Baggies were first to spring to life when Jay Rodriguez tested Cech with a looping header after an incisive run by Matt Phillips.
But moments later we burst forward and Lacazette saw his shot from inside the area squirm just past the near post. With clear-cut chances few and far between, we came closest through Iwobi who firstly blasted over the bar in the 16th minute before later seeing Ben Foster just about push his firm shot around the post.
Patience was the name of the game, and we created our best chance of the second period when, on the hour mark, Iwobi and Lacazette combined well on the edge of the area before Foster saved from the France international.
As the clock ticked on, our urgency increased but we continued to find it difficult to find a way through, while Cech was called on late on to make a sharp save from Jay Rodriguez.
But just when we needed a bit of luck, we got it as Alexis’ free kick deflected off James McClean and into the corner.
But there was a late twist as Calum Chambers was adjudged to have handballed in the area and Rodriguez slotted the resulting spot kick into the net.
HOW IT HAPPENED
WHAT IT MEANS
We welcome the Premier League champions, Chelsea, to Emirates Stadium on Wednesday for a blockbuster clash.
In the corresponding fixture last season we beat the Blues 3-0, with a devastating first-half burst of goals from Alexis, Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil doing the damage.
Last time out, in September’s clash at Stamford Bridge, we were the better team for long periods but had to settle for a share of the points.
With Mesut Ozil out with a slight knee injury, Alex Iwobi was drafted in as the only change to the side that beat Crystal Palace in midweek.
The Nigeria international was a threat – particularly in the first half - and here are some of his key moments:
16 – Iwobi receives the ball from Alexis just inside the area, and takes a touch before curling a shot inches over the bar
29 – Xhaka moves the ball out to the left to Iwobi, who cuts back inside and fires a powerful shot at goal that Foster just manages to deflect behind for a corner
60 – Combines well with Lacazette on the edge of the box to create a chance for the France international, whose shot is saved by Ben Foster
73 – The ball breaks to Iwobi 30 yards out and he tries his luck, but Foster is able to make a comfortable save
74 – Iwobi comes off and is replaced by Danny Welbeck
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