Bendtner keeps Gunners in the hunt
Didier Drogba sent Chelsea back to the top of the Premier League on Saturday but Arsenal stayed right on their heels thanks to a stoppage-time victory over ten-man Hull.
Nicklas Bendtner was again the Gunners saviour, following up his hat-trick against FC Porto in the Champions League in midweek with a a strike three minutes into added-on time to seal a 2-1 win at the KC Stadium. Chelsea’s 4-1 win over relegation-threatened West Ham kept them above Arsenal on goal difference with Manchester United a point further back ahead of their meeting with Fulham at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Tottenham consolidated their hold on the final Champions League qualifying spot with a 3-1 win over Blackburn while Wolves won the day’s big relegation battle, 2-1 at Burnley.
Arsenal, who have the easiest run-in of any of the top three, looked set for a straightforward victory after Andrey Arshavin fired them ahead after 14 minutes. But they were pegged back by Jimmy Bullard’s penalty after Sol Campbell was deemed to have pulled down Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink.
Hull were reduced to 10 men before half-time when George Boateng received a second yellow card but held the vistors at bay until right at the death, when Bendtner slotted home the rebound following a Denilson shot. “It’s maybe not good for my heart, but for the championship it’s not bad,” said Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger after his team’s fifth straight win.
West Ham had gone in level at the break at Stamford Bridge, thanks to a stunning 25-yard strike from Chelsea old boy Scott Parker which cancelled out Alex’s early header for the home side. But Drogba’s second-half brace, either side of a Florent Malouda strike, took his goal tally for the season to 27 and enabled Chelsea to preserve a little energy ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League last-16 second leg against Inter Milan.
“It was important to have a good reaction,” said Chelsea coach Carlo Ancelotti in reference to the recent 4-2 home defeat his side suffered at the hands of Manchester City. “We had a good reaction against Stoke and we improved again today. We had a bad day against Manchester City but we came back the right way.”
Tottenham tightened their grip on fourth place after Roman Pavlyuchenko made it eight goals in his last six matches with a double in a 3-1 win over Blackburn.
Jermain Defoe put Tottenham ahead in the first half. Russian striker Pavlyuchenko struck soon after the interval and then netted again in the closing stages to ease the hosts’ nerves following Christopher Samba’s goal for Blackburn. Tottenham are three points ahead of fifth-placed Manchester City, who travel to Sunderland on Sunday, and manager Harry Redknapp is growing increasingly confident about his side’s prospects of joining the European elite. “People have always got doubts about everything, all I’ve said is we have got a chance,” Redknapp said. “It’s not impossible, we have had a great year.”
Villa, Everton drop points
Aston Villa remain in the hunt for fourth spot but their cause was not helped by a goalless draw at Stoke. Everton’s strong recent form was reflected in a powerful start at Birmingham, Victor Anichebe and Ayegbeni Yakubu giving them a two-goal lead inside 22 minutes. But they were forced to settle for a point after an entertaining encounter at St Andrew’s. Cameron Jerome got Birmingham back into the match and Craig Gardner claimed the equaliser with his first goal since his January move from Aston Villa.
Bolton continued their resurgence under Owen Coyle with a convincing 4-0 win over Wigan. Johan Elmander gave the Trotters a tenth-minute lead, before Bolton went on the rampage in the second-half. Elmander’s strike partner Kevin Davies converted a penalty after Tamir Cohen was brought down, Fabrice Muamba made sure of the points in the 53rd minute and Matthew Taylor turned the game into a rout with a fourth 17 minutes from time.
Wolves claimed what may prove to be an extremely important victory when they overcame relegation rivals Burnley 2-1 at Turf Moor to pull three points clear of the drop zone. Matt Jarvis gave the visitors a first-half lead after a misjudged back header by Tyrone Mears and a Clarke Carlisle own goal early in the second half made it a doubly miserable afternoon for Burnley’s defenders. Steven Thompson pulled a goal back with 18 minutes left but Burnley were unable to salvage a point.