Arsenal hang on to top spot in English Premier League

March 2nd, 2008 - 4:12 pm ICT by admin  

DPA
London, March 2 (DPA) A last gasp goal by substitute Niklas Bendtner helped Arsenal draw 1-1 with Aston Villa to hang on to top spot in the English Premier League. The striker side-footed home with two seconds to go of injury time Saturday to clinch a point, keeping them one point clear of Manchester United, who hammered Fulham 3-0 at Craven Cottage.

Chelsea are just seven points behind Arsenal in third, with a game in hand on the top two, after they won 4-0 at West Ham United.

For the best part of 93 minutes, Arsenal looked sure to be overtaken by United at the top after Philippe Senderos’ own goal gave Martin O’Neill’s Villa team a surprise lead.

Arsenal poured forward in search of an equaliser late in the second half but their efforts looked in vain until Bendtner came off the bench to score with almost the last kick of the game, much to the relief of manager Arsene Wenger.

“Everyone goes through a bad spell, but every point gained is of vital importance,” the Frenchman said.

“They were difficult opponents. They defended very well and were sharp on the break. We had to dig deep to get to the pace of the game and it was the desire and refusal to lose which got us a point.”

United left Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney on the bench but were still far too good for second-from-bottom Fulham as they romped to an easy win at Craven Cottage.

Owen Hargreaves’ first Premiership goal put them ahead early on and Park Ji-Sung and an own goal from Simon Davies saw them to victory, lifting them to 64 points, one behind Arsenal.

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said the title race was now between three sides.

“It’s been a see-saw and now it is down to one point but Chelsea are still right on our coat-tails,” he said.

“It looks as if it is going to be a fantastic run-in. I didn’t think it was a great game at Fulham. It was a very windy day and a lively pitch but I think we did the job very professionally.”

Frank Lampard put Chelsea ahead at his old club, West Ham, and Joe Cole doubled their lead and Michael Ballack made it three before Lampard was sent off after a spat with Luis Boa Morte.

But the 10 men Chelsea were still the better side and Ashley Cole made it four in the second half, a great result for Chelsea in a week in which their manager Avram Grant had slammed the media for their reporting of the club.

“I am very happy,” Grant said. “The players showed fighting spirit and passion. We will do everything to do it (win the title). I never give in and I will not start now at my age. We started very well and if it was not a red card maybe the score would have been higher.”

Manchester City moved up to eighth despite being held to a goalless draw at home to Wigan Athletic, who are now two points clear of the relegation zone.

Mikael Forssell scored a hat-trick as Birmingham City moved away from the relegation zone with a 4-1 thrashing of Carling Cup winners Tottenham Hotspur.

Newcastle outplayed Blackburn for 89 minutes at St James’s Park but were hit with a late sucker-punch when Matt Derbyshire scored the winner to give Rovers a 1-0 win that lifts them to seventh.

Reading ended a run of eight straight defeats with a 1-0 win at Middlesbrough to move level on points with 17th-placed Bolton Wanderers, while bottom side Derby County shared a goalless draw with Sunderland in the day’s other match.
DPA

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