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17:05 19th March 2011

Albion 2 Arsenal 2

ALBION were denied their first league double over Arsenal for 49 seasons by the Gunners' second-half fight-back.

Steven Reid's third-minute header - his first Barclays Premier League goal of the season - and Peter Odemwingie's tenth of the term on 58 fired Roy Hodgson's men two-up.

But Andrey Arshavin gave Arsene Wenger's side a lifeline with a terrific 71st-minute strike and Robin van Persie denied Albion a famous win by bundling home 11 minutes from time.

Both teams had chances to win it at the death but a draw was just about fair.

Despite surrendering a two-goal lead, Hodgson will very much regard this as a point gained after his team showed tremendous discipline to keep out the side who started the day in second place until the latter stages.

The home fans acknowledged at the final whistle the tremendous effort Hodgson's walking wounded had put into the fixture and the result stretches the Baggies' unbeaten run to five games.

During the pre-match build-up, the club honoured the incredible loyalty of kitman Dave Matthews, celebrating his 50th anniversary at Albion, as chief executive Mark Jenkins and highly-respected former right-back Brendon Batson presented him with a cut-glass decanter and the Barclays Merit Award.

As if it was possible, the situation at the foot of the table became even tighter just before kick-off when West Ham moved above the Baggies on goal difference courtesy of their goalless draw at Tottenham.

But before the action got underway, all minds inside The Hawthorns turned to Japan as a minute's silence was impeccably observed in memory of the thousands who have lost their lives in the tsunami and earthquake disaster.

Odemwingie returned to the starting XI in place of Marc-Antoine Fortune in Hodgson's only change from the win at Blues.

Wenger made three alterations from the Gunners' FA Cup exit at Manchester United, with Aaron Ramsey, Sebastien Squillaci and Gael Clichy coming in for Abou Diaby, Johan Djourou and Kieran Gibbs.

Albion flew out of the blocks and got off to a dream start by snatching the lead inside three minutes.

Chris Brunt, who had been a doubt overnight through illness, swung in a corner from the left and the unmarked Reid powered an unstoppable header home from eight yards.

The Baggies were full of confidence and, moments later, Odemwingie just failed to get on the end of former Gunner Jerome Thomas' left-wing centre.

New head coach Hodgson's influence on Albion was clear for all to see as the hosts kept Arsenal away from Scott Carson's goal during the early stages through dogged organisation.

There was a brief stoppage on 20 when a bloodied James Morrison needed treatment after an accidental clash of heads with Laurent Koscielny.

While Albion were down to ten men, Clichy swung in a dangerous cross but Jonas Olsson was alert to the danger, holding off Gunners skipper van Persie to head clear.

Moments later, Arshavin tricked his way into the box but, under heavy pressure from Reid, mishit straight at Carson.

But Albion had their No.1 to thank for keeping them level on 25.

The unmarked van Persie crashed a superb header off the bar from Clichy's centre and the rebound fell to Ramsey, who looked certain to score, only to be denied by Carson's stunning point-blank save.

Arsenal's mini spell of pressure had come while Morrison was off the field having five stitches inserted and he finally returned with a heavily bandaged head after ten minutes.

Albion comfortably dealt with what little the North Londoners threw at them for the remainder of the half and looked threatening on counter-attacks spearheaded by Thomas, Morrison and Odemwingie.

Arsenal's half was summed up by van Persie's wayward 20-yarder three minutes into stoppage time.

Both teams made a change at half-time, with Marek Cech coming on for Paul Scharner and Marouane Chamakh replacing Denilson.

The second half followed a similar pattern to the first, with Arsenal prodding and probing for an opening through the Baggies' resolute rearguard.

The Gunners' next effort at goal came on 52 when Chamakh headed Arshavin's deflected cross weakly at Carson.

But it was Albion who should have added the next goal thanks to a stunning move which started near their own left-hand corner flag.

The Baggies brilliantly manoeuvred the ball wide to Cech who picked out Brunt at the back stick but the skipper agonisingly slid his effort wide at full stretch.

But that miss was soon a distant memory as Albion surged 2-0 up on 58.

Arsenal keeper Manuel Almunia and centre-half Sebastien Squillacci got into a horrible mess on the edge of their box as they attacked Youssouf Mulumbu's diagonal ball and Odemwingie nipped in and rolled into the empty net from 20 yards.

The Gunners were struggling to create anything and van Persie was well off target with an inviting 25-yard free-kick.

But the visitors had a lifeline on 71.

Arshavin made it 2-1 by controlling just inside the Albion box and rifling a stunning volley inside the far corner of the net.

Albion regrouped but were clawed level 11 minutes from time when van Persie bundled the loose ball home after sub Nicklas Bendtner had headed Arshavin's deep centre back into the danger-zone.

It was a tough blow to take - but Albion did not wilt.

And they could even have been back in front during the dying stages when Fortune beat two defenders in the Arsenal box before seeing his left-footed effort blocked.

Arsenal launched a late rally but Hodgson's side stood firm to bag a vital point.

ALBION (4-2-3-1): Carson; Reid, Meite, Olsson, Shorey; Scharner (Cech HT), Mulumbu; Brunt, Morrison, Thomas; Odemwingie (Fortuné 74). Subs not used: Myhill (gk), Jara, Cox, Tamas, Tchoyi.

ARSENAL (4-5-1): Almunia; Sagna, Koscielny, Squillaci, Clichy; Nasri, Denilson (Chamakh HT), Wilshere, Ramsey (Bendtner 58), Arshavin; van Persie. Subs not used: Lehmann (gk), Rosicky, Eboue, Gibbs, Miquel.

GOALS: ALBION - Reid (3), Odemwingie (58). ARSENAL - Arshavin (71), van Persie (79).

BOOKINGS: ARSENAL - Denilson (foul 36), Koscielny (foul 61), Nasri (foul 81).

REFEREE: S Attwell (Nuneaton).



PIC: USING HIS HEAD...Reid celebrates his opening goal

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    Data provided by Press Association


    For the first 50 years of their existence, England played their home matches all around the country.