ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
Arsenal 3 Watford 0
LONDON • Goalkeeper Petr Cech had a big hand in the upturn in mood at Arsenal yesterday, as the Gunners ended a good week with a 3-0 win over Watford in the English Premier League yesterday.
With the Gunners 2-0 up at the Emirates, Ainsley Maitland-Niles conceded a penalty with a foul on Watford midfielder Roberto Pereyra.
But when Troy Deeney stepped up to take the spot kick, Cech made a fine save that saw him become the first goalkeeper in Premier League history to keep 200 clean sheets.
It was a moment of sweet vindication for the hosts after the Watford captain questioned the courage of the Gunners last October following the Hornets' win over them at Vicarage Road.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan then sealed victory with a low strike that crept under Orestis Karnezis in the 77th minute.
The win eased a little of the pressure on beleaguered Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. After a wretched run left the Frenchman fighting to save his job, a 2-0 win at AC Milan in the Europa League on Thursday offered him temporary respite from the torrent of abuse he has endured this season.
ON A ROLL
We knew we're on a difficult run at the moment, we had to look at ourselves and we had a big result in midweek in Milan and I felt we carried the determination into today.
PETR CECH, Arsenal's man of the match against Watford, on his side's response to their recent run of bad results.
Maintaining the momentum from that last-16, first-leg victory in the San Siro, Wenger's side ended a run of three successive Premier League defeats with a solid display.
Shkodran Mustafi's early opener and a cool finish from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang put them in control.
Arsenal, who had lost eight of their previous 14 matches in all competitions, remain in sixth place.
They trailed fourth-placed Tottenham by 10 points ahead of their north London rivals' trip to Bournemouth later yesterday.
"You cannot say that because we won two games in a week we are out of it but it is a big step forward to try and finish the season on a high and see what we can get," man of the match Cech said after ending a run of 11 league appearances without a clean sheet.
"We knew we're on a difficult run at the moment, we had to look at ourselves and we had a big result in midweek in Milan and I felt we carried the determination into today."
With the second leg against Milan looming on Thursday, Wenger rested Aaron Ramsey and Laurent Koscielny and left Jack Wilshere on the bench, and his gamble paid off.
"Overall I believe it was important to continue after Milan to show that consistency," he said.
"Watford came back strong in the second half but overall it was a convincing win and an important one...
"The spirit kept us out of trouble. We dealt well with set pieces which is why they could not come back."
Cech was still needed to make four stops, including his first penalty save in 16 faced for the club.
It was also his first spot-kick save in England's top flight since February 2011.
The 35-year-old now has 38 clean sheets for Arsenal and 162 for Chelsea in 431 games.
"We took 18 games to get to nine clean sheets, I got to 199 and then had to wait 11 games to get another clean sheet," said the Czech.
"It was a bit frustrating but we have eight games and we have to make sure we win most of them."