Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Arsenal back in for the champions league spot

Nicklas Bendtner ended Arsenal's Barclays Premier League goal drought as they swept aside struggling West Brom 3-1 to rekindle their hopes of a Champions League spot.

The Denmark international struck twice to take his goal tally for the campaign to 11 as Arsene Wenger's side moved to within three points of fourth-placed Aston Villa.

Kolo Toure was also on target for the Gunners who had failed to net in their previous four league games. Albion managed a solitary reply from Chris Brunt.

The visitors could not have faced a more accommodating defence against which to rediscover their touch in front of goal.

Albion have conceded 17 goals in their last six league games and at times seemed reluctant to put in a tackle as Bendtner and his team-mates cut through them almost at will.

Baggies keeper Scott Carson looks uncertain and devoid of confidence when dealing with crosses into the box although he did make some reflex stops after the interval to prevent the scoreline becoming more embarrassing.

Russia international Andrey Arshavin looked sharp in his second start for Arsenal who are now unbeaten in 14 league games.

But on this evidence Albion looked doomed to the drop unless they can stop gifting soft goals to the opposition in the final 10 games of the season.

Arsenal made a positive start and needed only four minutes to end their recent goal drought through Bendtner.

Samir Nasri's corner was headed clear by Baggies skipper Jonathan Greening but only found Denilson in space on the edge of the Baggies area.

He had time to release Bendtner who easily cut inside Ryan Donk before drilling a low left-footed drive across Scott Carson into the corner of the net.

Albion needed only three minutes to draw level through Brunt although there was big question mark over the quality of the Arsenal defending.

Luke Moore was brought down 20 yards out by Gunners defender Johan Djourou and Brunt's low free-kick skidded through the defensive wall and past the dive of Manuel Almunia.

Bendtner missed a great chance to restore Arsenal's lead after 13 minutes. Emmanuel Eboue fed the ball into the feet of the Danish international who was unmarked 12 yards out but he blazed his shot over the bar.

The game was flowing from end to end and Almunia had to go down at his near post to hold a fierce shot on the turn from Moore.

A deep corner from Brunt caused problems for Arsenal and was turned back across goal by Fortune but Moore was unable to keep his header down.

Then after 38 minutes some dreadful defending allowed Toure to restore Arsenal's lead.

Arshavin floated a free-kick into the area and Carson remained rooted to his line as Toure stole in to plant a free header into the corner of the net for his first goal of the season.

Then a minute before the interval, Bendtner struck for the second time to double Arsenal's advantage. Toure's long ball caught out the Baggies defence and Bendtner was able to skip away from Abdoulaye Meite before hammering a fierce shot past Carson.

Wenger made a half-time substitution with Abou Diaby replacing Toure.

Carson did well to parry a fierce drive from Arshavin after he had been teed up by Bendtner who had burst unchallenged into the Baggies box.

The England keeper then excelled himself in denying Arshavin at close range after more good play by Bendtner.

Arsenal were queueing up to fire shots in at Carson who was relieved to see a long range attempt from Diaby deflect off Meite and over the bar.

Then Bendtner was denied a hat-trick when he cut in from the left flank, skipped past Meite and Robinson and hammered a low shot against the post.

Fortune could have pulled one back but drilled his low shot wide of the far post.

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