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.

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