2006-12-26

Robin van Persie gave Arsenal a triumph over Watford

Wenger's team completed back-to-back league wins for the first time since the autumn to hold to the third position in the Premiership, but for Watford it was another episode in a seemingly ever lengthening list of hard luck stories.

Indeed, only the most fervent of Arsenal fans would have denied the Hornets' claim on the point that would have lifted them off the bottom of the table after a display that combined their battling qualities with some speedy and attractive attacking play, particularly in the first part of the clash.

It's fair to say that the visitors had had their chances to wrap up the points before the decisive moment, but a combination of poor finishing and some excellent stops from Ben Foster looked like it would see Watford earn their deserved rewards.

Despite that effort, we must notice that substitute Theo Walcott fed Robin van Persie with a fine pass down the right and the striker pulled Jay DeMerit out of the middle before checking back inside the American and curling home an excellent finish reminiscent of another Dutchman from the Gunners.

We must say that it was tough on Aidy Boothroyd's men who had played their part in a thoroughly entertaining encounter - the tone for which was set by the end-to-end opening exchanges.

In fact, the excellent Hameur Bouazza warmed Jens Lehmann's palms with a low drive before DeMerit's timely intervention prevented Cesc Fabregas having a clear shooting chance in the penalty area.

And England goalkeeper Foster was called into action for the first time to keep out van Persie's angled effort following a thrusting Tomas Rosicky run into the left side of the penalty area.

Foster had to be alert again to thwart Fabregas from close distance but moments later the on loan Manchester United keeper could just stand and watch as van Persie dragged the shot wide of him and narrowly past the far post after more good play from Rosicky.

However, this game changed thanks to a decisive double intervention from Arsenal skipper Gilberto Silva.

With Ashley Young set to pull the trigger, he made a superb potential goalsaving tackle before, within a minute, appearing unmarked at the far post to head home his third goal in as many encounters after Kolo Toure had flicked on a Rosicky corner.

It's important to consider that Watford may have only had one previous top-flight win to their name but had proved time and again they are no soft touches and within four minutes were level.

The equaliser stemmed from a storming run down the left from Bouazza who left Toure trailing in his wake before his low cross deflected off Justin Hoyte towards the near post which Tommy Smith attacked and calmly steered a left-footed finish low to Lehmann's right.

In the end, Arsene Wenger expressed: "It was very hard. There was fantastic commitment from Watford and we needed to be patient and resilient.

"I claimed that we have improved (when playing against physical sides) and you could see that. In the air we were strong and in the second half we were not troubled physically at the back."

In fact, Wenger also likened match-winner Robin van Persie to Gunners legend Dennis Bergkamp.

Goals: Gilberto (19) 0-1; Smith (23) 1-1; Van Persie (83) 1-2.

Watford: Foster; Mariappa, DeMerit, Shittu (Priskin, 90), Stewart; Smith, Mahon, Bangura, McNamee (Henderson, 77); Bouazza (Francis, 69), Young. Substitutes not used: Lee (gk), Doyley.

Arsenal: Lehmann; Hoyte, Touré, Djourou (Senderos, h-t), Clichy; Hleb (Walcott, 71), Gilberto, Fabregas, Rosicky (Baptista, 79); Van Persie, Adebayor. Substitutes not used: Almunia (gk), Flamini.

2006-12-12

Chelsea fought hard to tie with Arsenal

Chelsea FC dropped two points at home Sunday, needing an 84th-minute equalizer from Michael Essien to just get a 1-1 draw against Arsenal in the Premier League.

Mathieu Flamini put the Gunners ahead in the 78th, scoring after receiving a pass from Alexander Hleb. Essien then leveled with an incredible long-range shot that went in off the inside of the post at Stamford Bridge Stadium.

"I think the goal was tremendous, unbelievable,"Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho admitted.

It's fair to say that Essien and Frank Lampard nearly gave Chelsea the win in injury time. Essien hit the crossbar from right in front of goal, and Lampard then hit the post.

Actually, this draw gives Manchester United an eight-point lead at the top of the standings, but with one more game played than Chelsea. Man United has 44 points, followed by Chelsea with 36. Arsenal only reach 26 points.

We msut mention that Mourinho was confident that his team would cut the gap to five after Wednesday's match against Newcastle, and he warned Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson not to celebrate his side's lead too much.

"I'm convinced that he must be happy now because we can say we dropped two points, but if he thinks it's over, he is in trouble,"Mourinho said. "Chelsea are ready. We were losing at home with five minutes to go but we had an incredible reaction and should have won the match.

2006-12-04

Arsenal to face Porto without Henry

In a really important game, Porto and Arsenal can guarantee a place in the Champions League knockout stage with a draw. The Group G match will take place at the Dragao Stadium.

But it's important to consider that a victory for one of them could eliminate the other if CSKA Moscow beat Hamburg SV, who have lost all five games, in the other match in the group.

In fact, if Porto draw with Arsenal and CSKA win, all three teams will have 11 points and the Russians will be eliminated by virtue of a worst goal difference in games among the three.

The Gunners will be without their talismanic striker and captain Thierry Henry. The Frenchman, suspended after picking up his third yellow card of the tournament against Hamburg two weeks ago, would not have played anyway as he is nursing a neck injury which has led to sciatic nerve problems which are likely to sideline him for at least 30 days.

Arsenal will also be without midfielder Tomas Rosicky after the Czech midfielder was injured in Saturday's 3-0 win over arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur, which boosted morale in the squad after two successive away defeats in the Premier League.

With Wenger's side also playing Chelsea next Sunday, manager Arsene Wenger has described this as the most important week of their season and Brazilian midfielder Gilberto, who scored two penalties against Spurs, says the squad are ready to respond.

"We know that this week is decisive for our future in the Premier League and the Champions League. We did our job against Spurs, but need to continue with Wednesday's very difficult game against Porto. We must come back with a result."

We must remember that Arsenal beat Porto 2-0 in London in September and would become the first English side to beat the 2004 European champions away if they win.