Arsenal received the benefit of a controversial penalty decision and didn't let the chance slip away, as they stormed back from a late 1-0 deficit to defeat Norwich City 3-1 at Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal were in complete control during the first half-hour. They dominated possession, spent a lot of time in the final third and created a couple scoring chances. Nobody had the finishing touch necessary to secure an early lead, though.
The first opportunity came on a cross from Bacary Sagna, which was redirected by Olivier Giroud with his head and struck the top of the post. It appeared he had caught Norwich keeper Mark Bunn leaning if the flick would have been on target.
Gervinho had two good opportunities in the first half. First, he beat a couple defenders and attacked into the box but couldn't get a shot away. Then he beat everybody, including the keeper, to the outside but wasn't able to convert from a very sharp angle.
The opening half finished with a couple set pieces for the Gunners, but Norwich did good to clear on each occasion. The Canaries didn't generate a single shot toward goal before the break. Strong defensive play was the only reason they weren't down by a goal or two.
Norwich finally started showing signs of offensive life in the second half. An early corner kick proceeded to bounce free inside the Arsenal box for a moment before getting cleared.
Then, in the 54th minute, there was a mad scramble at the other end of the pitch. Arsenal made multiple attempts toward goal, including one where they appealed from a hand ball but weren't able to turn the chances into a tally.
Finally, there was a breakthrough mere minutes later, as Michael Turner went unmarked in the box off a set piece and directed the ball past Lukasz Fabianski to make it 1-0 Norwich.
The goal really seemed to shake up Arsenal. The Gunners, who were in near complete control for a majority of the match to that point, suddenly struggled to generate any sustained pressure.
They broke out of their funk with about 10 minutes left in the match when substitute Lukas Podolski ripped a shot off the crossbar. He got every last bit on the strike, but it wasn't able to find the net and marked the second near miss of the match for Arsenal.
The Gunners managed to level it at one, albeit not without controversy. Giroud went down in the box and the line judge waved for a penalty the referee didn't originally call. Mikel Arteta capitalized on the penalty to tie the match.
Momentum from that called changed the match entirely. Arsenal regained control and dominated possession until they grabbed the lead. A Gunners cross hit off a sliding Sebastien Bassong and into the defender's own goal.
Theo Walcott found Lukas Podolski late to cap off the crucial comeback victory for Arsenal.
Olivier Giroud (Arsenal): B
Giroud was a constant presence in the Norwich box during the first half. Aside from his flicked header that found the crossbar, he was able to keep the Canaries back line alert moving forward. He didn't get enough touches in dangerous areas, though.
He struggled to make the same type of impact after halftime, mostly because Norwich was finally able to even out the match a bit. He did provide a nice touch to Podolski inside the last 15, but his fellow summer addition struck a crossbar of his own.
Luckily for Arsenal, he drew the penalty the club needed to secure a draw. Whether it was warranted is definitely up for debate.
Gervinho (Arsenal): C+
Gervinho deserves credit for trying to push the pace in the first half. While everybody else was standing around waiting for something to happen, he at least tried to create some chances. It showed the type of aggressiveness he needs to play with all the time.
That said, his inability to finish when he did get into the box keeps his grade from being any more than slightly above average. If he converts one of those opportunities, the whole complexion of the match changes for the Gunners.
He didn't bring the same intensity in the second half, forcing Arsene Wenger to sub him out for Podolski with about a half-hour left.
Michael Turner (Norwich): B
Turner was about 10 minutes away from being the hero. His great run in the box off the set piece allowed him to run free and easily guide the ball into the net. Those situations have been an issue all season for the Gunners and he took advantage.
The veteran defender also played a key role in helping shut the Arsenal attack down for the first 85 minutes. If the match didn't turn around in the final minutes, he probably would have been the man of the match for his efforts.
Mark Bunn (Norwich): B-
Even though Arsenal unleashed a barrage of goals late, it's hard to fault Bunn. He kept the Canaries in the match with a couple nice saves early, giving them the opportunity to grab the lead. After the penalty decision, things just fell apart in front of him.
He got a slight touch on the Arteta penalty, but it wasn't enough to keep it out. Then the ensuing goals can't be placed on his shoulders. An above-average showing from the keeper. Just not enough to help his team earn much-needed points.
Arsenal must prepare for a key match against Everton on a quick turnaround. The two sides, which are battling for European spots for next season, play on Tuesday.
Norwich will continue their quest to avoid falling deeper into the relegation battle against Reading next Saturday. Three points at home will be crucial for the Canaries.
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