Bendtner Strike Keeps Title Flame Alive
Arsenal 1 – 0 Wolverhampton Wanderers
1 – 0 Bendtner (90)
Henry Sent Off (66)
Nicklas Bendtner struck deep into injury time, ensuring that Arsenal capitalised on Manchester United dropping points and the gap to Chelsea remained at three points. Until that point, it seemed that yesterday would be the moment when the Arsenal dream of winning the Premier League remained just that.
Ahead of the Champions League trip to Barcelona, Wenger shuffled the pack. In came Eboue, Silvestre, Campbell, Rosicky, Eduardo, Denilson and Theo Walcott to the starting line-up, changes to that which kicked-off in midweek. Out went Uncle Tom Cobley and all. Had Bendtner not scored when he did, little doubt that Wenger would have been criticised for too many changes. Perhaps he let go of his key tenet, the next game is the most important, by making the volume of changes to the team. Perhaps not.
The majority of the chances fell to Arsenal. Mick McCarthy after the Barcelona tie observed that the opening twenty minutes had given Arsenal a taste of how everyone else felt when Arsenal played them. Well, the squad didn’t like it and exacted an element of revenge for that. Wolves defended stubbornly and deserve credit for keeping the scores level, helped by the usual dose of profligacy in front of goal by the Arsenal midfield and strikeforce.
Much expectation was heaped on the shoulders of Theo Walcott following his substitute appearance in midweek and he had an energetic afternoon, a constant outlet for the attack, willingingly running at the Wolves defence. As is expected, not every cross found its target, some through wayward delivery, others the ball hitting a space where it is not unreasonable for Walcott to have expected support to have been arriving. He set Eduardo for perhaps the clearest of earliest chances, the Croat’s strike turned aside.
Eduardo’s touch was in turn sublime and out of sorts, reflecting the lack of regular match action he has seen. His link-up play was excellent, working hard to fashion openings or space for the supporting cast. Having threatened the Wolves goal earlier, he scuffed a later effort wide with his right, hindsight probably shows that letting the ball roll across his body for a shot with his left possibly the better option than the effort fashioned by controlling and shooting with his right.
Sagna provided good width when he got forward, a rare genuine sighting of goal saw him shot with power against the prostrate Wolves ‘keeper when a touch of lift and guile might have broken the deadlock sooner. As it was, his final contribution to the attack proved telling, his measured cross in the last minute thundered into the net by Nicklas Bendtner. The goal was deserved by the team and by the Dane in particular for recent performances have gone unrewarded.
Wolves feel aggrieved with Henry’s dimissal but it is hard to fathom why. Henry came through the back of Rosicky, the Czech crumpled under the challenge deflecting the ball away, leading to the misapprehension that the visitor had actually taken the ball. Was there an element of ‘protectionism’ by the referee? No, I don’t think so; the tackle was reckless in the angle from which it was initiated and the speed with which Rosicky’s legs were taken.
The Arsenal midfielder had been at the centre of a lot of the good attacking play for the hosts. Shortly after receiving treatment for the Henry injury, Rosicky had two presentable opportunities to break the deadlock but throughout the game he had been prompting and passing to pull Wolves defensive shape to bits. He contributed his own defensive duties, heading off the post with Almunia beaten although the visitors header looked to be going just wide. He was not to know that and safety first ensured that the clean sheet was kept.
It was a disjointed Arsenal side which produced the necessary win. I am sure Wenger would have preferred not to use Nasri & Co from the bench with Tuesday fast approaching but needs must. Winning in the later stages has become habit forming, a testament not only to the physical strength of those on the pitch but their mental capacity to grind out results, to not let their heads go down when a disadvantageous outcome seems inevitable.
Three points behind Chelsea is not a bad position for a team widely written off before the season started, to be in. They can win the league if Chelsea and United slip once more. Keeping the pressure up is key to it all; rotating the squad today might have crippled that dream but it did not, no matter how the media might like to portray the performance. At this point in the season, who cares how Arsenal wins. Winning is all that matters.
Now we move to the Champions League. ’til Tomorrow.
Posted on April 4, 2010, in Arsenal, Football, Premier League, Premiership, Soccer and tagged Arsenal, Champions League, Football, Premier League, Soccer, Wolverhampton Wanderers. Bookmark the permalink. 146 Comments.