Rosicky brace lifts Arsenal to fourth
Arsenal enhanced their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League with a 2-1 win over West Bromwich Albion on Saturday thanks to two goals from Tomas Rosicky.
The Czech Republic international scored either side of halftime in an enthralling Premier League clash at The Hawthorns that saw the Gunners climb to fourth place in the table.
Arsene Wenger's side were coasting to victory until Per Mertesacker was sent off after he brought down Albion striker Shane Long inside the box.
James Morrison converted the resulting penalty but despite a sustained period of pressure, the home side were unable to find an equaliser.
West Brom threatened with a succession of corners in the early stages and almost grabbed the lead when Chris Brunt's delivery was glanced towards goal by Claudio Yacob at the near post, but Rosicky nodded off the line.
A neat passing move in the 16th minute saw Long released down the right flank, only for the Republic of Ireland international to drag his shot wide.
Wenger's side remained patient, though, and were rewarded with the opening goal slightly against the run of play four minutes later through Rosicky.
Mikel Arteta used his vision to pick out Gervinho on the left edge of the penalty area and he twisted and turned Gareth McAuley before picking out Rosicky, who directed a powerful header in from close range.
Arsenal goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski made an important save shortly afterwards when he dived to save a low Brunt free-kick struck through the wall.
The visitors' neat passing created an opening for Ivory Coast forward Gervinho in the 28th minute and he managed to angle a shot through a crowd of bodies that Albion goalkeeper Ben Foster saved with his foot.
West Brom's defence struggled to cope with Arsenal's intricate style and their back line was opened again shortly before halftime.
A brilliant move involving several Arsenal players left Wales international Aaron Ramsey with a golden opportunity from close range, but he screwed his shot wide.
Arsenal maintained their intensity after the interval and increased their advantage five minutes in when Rosicky claimed his second of the game.
Ramsey's clever ball found the Czech, who saw an initial shot parried by Foster, but he was quickest to react and buried a low shot under the body of the goalkeeper.
West Brom had a penalty appeal turned down by referee Howard Webb moments later when the ball seemed to strike the arm of Mertesacker while he was on the ground.
Albion manager Steve Clarke introduced on-loan Chelsea forward Romelu Lukaku in a bid to freshen up his side's attack.
The Belgium striker soon curled a dangerous free-kick over the Arsenal wall on the hour mark, but Fabianski had anticipated it and gathered well.
West Brom were then given a foothold in the game in the 71st minute when Mertesacker was shown a straight red card by Webb after he chopped down Long inside the penalty area.
Morrison struck the resulting spot-kick to Fabianski's right and although the Arsenal goalkeeper guessed correctly, the shot had too much power and went under him.
With the extra man advantage, Clarke's side dominated the remainder of the half in pursuit of the equaliser, but Arsenal's defence stood firm despite some nervous moments.
Lukaku should have shown more composure in the 83rd minute when he smashed the ball wide from a good position, while Long blazed over the bar a matter of minutes later.