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Dec 8, 2012

Mikel Arteta penalties lift Arsenal

Mikel Arteta struck twice from the penalty spot -- the first after a dive by fellow Spaniard Santi Cazorla -- as Arsenal returned to winning ways with a 2-0 Premier League victory over West Brom at Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

The Gunners had started brightly but took the lead through controversial fashion after Cazorla flung himself to the floor following a challenge by Steven Reid when replays showed there was no contact.

The Baggies, who lost twice last week to halt their fine start to the season, never really recovered from the sense of injustice and there was no way back once Arteta converted from the penalty spot again on 64 minutes after Chris Brunt had tripped Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

On 17 minutes, Oxlade-Chamberlain darted to the goalline on the right and looped the ball back across goal. Cazorla arrived at pace, but could not keep his left-foot volley down and fired the ball high into the Clock End.

West Brom was dangerous on the counter and almost snatched the lead when captain Chris Brunt curled a 20-yard effort just wide of the top right corner.

Arsenal was awarded a penalty on 24 minutes. Cazorla cut into the left side of the area, and as he turned back inside Reid, went to ground as the defender stuck out his leg. Referee Mike Jones immediately pointed to the spot, though television replays showed there looked little contact, if any at all. Arteta stepped up to drill the ball past Myhill.

"There was zero contact, it wasn't even close. I am not sure what the referee saw," said West Brom manager Steve Clarke. "It was a bad decision for us and obviously changed the shape of the afternoon. It could have been a nervous afternoon for Arsenal, at 0-0 they hadn't created too much.

"We knew the longer the game went the more pressure would come on Arsenal and then we would have a chance. That decision changed it."

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger had not reviewed the incident, but said Cazorla insisted there had been contact.

"I am sorry if it was not a penalty, but I have spoken to Santi and he said he was touched, lost his balance. Has he made a bit more of it? I don't know," Wenger said. "When (a player) is touched, he goes down, the referee can give or not give the penalty. ... I will look at it, don't worry."

West Brom felt it had a penalty shout when Per Mertesacker handled a high ball in the Arsenal box, but the assistant on the far side flagged for a foul on the big German defender by Jonas Olsson.

In the second half, Gervinho was off target again when he glanced a free header wide on the penalty spot. The Ivory Coast forward was enduring one of those afternoons when moments later he failed to connect with Giroud's knockdown into the six-yard box.

On 64 minutes, Arsenal were awarded another penalty. This time there was no controversy as Brunt chopped down Oxlade-Chamberlain after the England midfielder had charged down the right.

"The second was a clear penalty, no complaints," Clarke said.

Arteta took it again and with the same outcome as the Spaniard blasted the spot-kick down the middle.

With a two-goal cushion, Arsenal had some breathing space and started to produce the slick, passing football which had been so lacking in recent performances.

Lukas Podolski came off the bench to somehow lift the ball over from six yards as Arsenal closed out what was in the end a comfortable victory to edge back up towards the top four.

Also Saturday, Norwich held off Swansea's second-half comeback to extend its unbeaten run to 10 games with a thrilling 4-3 win at the Liberty Stadium.

The Canaries had stunned their high-flying hosts with goals from Steven Whittaker, Sebastien Bassong and Grant Holt giving them a 3-0 halftime lead.

Swansea rallied through strikes from Michu and Jonathan De Guzman, but Robert Snodgrass made sure of the win with an excellent free kick before Michu netted again in injury time.

Swansea confirmed that one of its supporters, a 23-year-old Swansea man, was arrested after allegedly making a racist gesture toward Bassong during the game. The incident took place after Robert Snodgrass had scored Norwich's fourth goal from a free-kick in the 77th minute. Bassong went to celebrate with his teammates but quickly motioned to referee Howard Webb that he believed he had been the victim of a racist gesture.

QPR equaled an unwanted record as it had to settle for a 2-2 draw against Wigan that made it 16 games without a victory for the London side. Not since Sheffield United in the 1990-91 season has a team gone so many top-flight games into a campaign without winning.

James McCarthy gave Wigan the lead in the 19th minute with his first goal for almost two years before Ryan Nelsen levelled seven minutes later.

Substitute Djibril Cisse looked like he might have won it for Rangers when he put them ahead against the run of play with 19 minutes remaining but McCarthy netted again three minutes later.

Southampton moved out of the relegation zone for the first time this season with a 1-0 win after Jason Puncheon's second-half strike proved the difference against fellow strugglers Reading.

Hal Robson-Kanu rattled the post in first-half stoppage time but the Saints continued to threaten after the break, getting their just rewards in the 61st minute when Puncheon lashed a right-footed strike into the far corner for what proved to be the winner.

Stoke defender Ryan Shotton was controversially sent off in stoppage time in an instantly forgettable goalless draw at Aston Villa. Shotton was given his marching orders by referee Roger East for a second bookable offence, but replays showed he made no contact on Villa substitute Fabian Delph.

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