Ten-man Arsenal go top of Premier League as West Ham miss penalty  

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Arsenal climbed to the top of the English Premier League with a 2-0 victory over London rivals West Ham despite playing half of Saturday's clash with only 10 men.

Arsene Wenger's team moved a point above champions Manchester United, who host Liverpool on Sunday, while Chelsea dropped to third ahead of their trip to Blackburn. Carlo Ancelotti's side can join Arsenal on 67 points with victory in that game.

Gianfranco Zola's West Ham team were left to rue a missed penalty as the defeat left them just three points above the relegation zone.

Arsenal, who on Friday were handed a chance to avenge 2006's Champions League final defeat by Barcelona in the upcoming quarterfinals, took the lead after just five minutes in the rain at the Emirates Stadium.

Brazil midfielder Denilson fired in a low shot for his sixth goal this season, having dispossessed Valon Behrami and then played a neat one-two on the edge of the area with striker Nicklas Bendtner.

But Arsenal could not turn their dominance into further goals, and West Ham should have leveled just before halftime when Belgium defender Thomas Vermaelen was sent off as his nudge in the back of Guillermo Franco saw the Mexico striker tumble in the box.

But Alessandro Diamanti saw his penalty saved by Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia, and the hosts also escaped in the second half when substitute striker Carlton Cole saw his fierce low shot hit the outside of the post.

Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas made the points safe on his return from injury five minutes after that with a penalty on 82, as England defender Matthew Upson paid the price for deliberately blocking the Spain midfielder's clever little flick with his arm.

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Hull 1 Arsenal 2: Nicklas Bendtner scores stoppage-time winner to keep Gunners firing in Premier League title race  

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Nicklas Bendtner struck in stoppage time as Arsenal kept pace with Chelsea at the top of the Barclays Premier League with victory at 10-man Hull.

The title-chasing Gunners went in front when Andrey Arshavin prodded in after 14 minutes but Jimmy Bullard levelled with a penalty after 28 minutes following a clumsy Sol Campbell challenge on Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink.

Arsenal struggled to break down Hull following the 45th-minute dismissal of George Boateng but Bendtner earned a fifth straight win by netting after Denilson's wicked swerving shot.

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Wenger in pole position to sign Bundesliga ace  

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Egyptian international Mohamed Zidan has revealed that Arsenal are leading the race for his signature. Zidan has been linked with Arsenal’s North London rivals Tottenham Hotpsur, Manchester United and Barcelona, however according to the player’s agent Arsenal are eager to speak to the Egyptian international following the Borrussia Dortmund forward’s strike at Wembley last week.

The Premier League trio of Manchester United, Arsenal, and Barcelona are all reportedly confirmed as tracking Mohamed Zidan, according to the player’s father. Abdullah Zidan told Dream TV that Arsene Wenger, Sir Alex Ferguson, and Pep Guardiola have all made contact with Zidan’s agent and are interested in signing the African Cup of Nations winner in the summer.

Zidan said yesterday: "My agent spoke to me after the game and told me about Arsenal’s interest. He asked me to try to impress them, and become the first Egyptian to play for the Gunners."

The player’s father had revealed that Spurs, Manchester United, Barcelona and Arsenal were the clubs monitoring the player before his Wembley goal against England.

"Arsenal, Manchester United and Barcelona have talked to Mohamed's agent," he told Dream TV. Zidan’s father also revealed that his son has a clause in his contract in which allows Mohamed speak to these three clubs. ??

However, international teammate and West Ham’s Mido believes Zidan’s style would suit either Arsenal or Spurs, but the former Middlesbrough hitman admitted Zidan could succeed in the Premier League.

Mido Said:?? “Zidan is one of the great players for my country right now," the former Tottenham, Middlesbrough and Wigan man said in The Sun.

??"He is a second striker, more of a link man than an out-and-out goalscorer. ?He is very quick, confident on the ball and of course when the chance comes, the guy can score goals. He has done very well and is getting more and more attention.??

"Zidan could be successful in England if he goes to a good footballing club.?He needs to be in a team that plays good football, beautiful football like Arsenal.?? If he goes to a club who play a more physical game, it would not be so good for him.??Maybe he could even fit in at one of my old teams, like Tottenham.?? They have some excellent players like Luka Modric, Niko Kranjcar and Tom Huddlestone."

??The 29-year-old Zidan has spent the majority of his career in the German Bundesliga with time at Werder Bremen, Mainz 05, Hamburg and Borrusia Dortmund all under his belt. Zidan has netted on nine occasions in 45 appearances for Dortmund and has been capped 33 times for his country hitting the back of the net seven times.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger was tracking a forward in the January transfer window while Nicklas Bendtner, Theo Walcott, and Robin Van Persie were injured, however the Frenchman could not find a suitable target with Bordeaux’s Marouane Chamakh joining in the summer on a free transfer, and negotiation’s with FC Cluj target Lacina Traore breaking down.

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has a number of forward options at United with Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen competing for the first team forward berths.

While Fergie also has three world class prospects up front with 22-year-old Mame Biram Diouf, 18-year-old Federico Macheda, and 19-year Danny Welbeck currently on loan at Preston North End expected to compete next season for a first team spot.??Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp has a number of forward options with Roman Pavlychenko finding form, Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch and on loan Celtic forward Robbie Keane.

Zidan, 28, has scored five goals in 21 appearances for Borussia Dortmund in 2009/2010 and also chipped in with five assists.

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Arsenal 5-0 Porto  

Nicklas Bendtner grabbed a hat-trick as Arsenal cruised into the quarter-finals of the Champions League with an emphatic victory over Porto at the Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners were trailing 2-1 from the first leg and had to do without injured captain Cesc Fabregas.

However, Arsene Wenger's young team rose to the challenge as a first-half brace from Bendtner - who missed a string of chances against Burnley here three days ago - was followed by fine goals from Samir Nasri and Emmanuel Eboue before the young Dane slotted home a penalty in the final minute to secure a place among the last eight of Europe's elite once again.

The result also broke Arsenal's unwelcome near 32-year run of failing to overturn a first-leg deficit in a European tie since beating Hajduk Split in 1978.

Arsenal had started brightly, with Nasri's shot blocked in the six-yard box before the lively Andrey Arshavin saw his far-post header saved following a deep cross by Bacary Sagna.

The Gunners went ahead after 10 minutes.

Goalkeeper Manuel Almunia, standing in as captain, booted a long clearance up field, which Arshavin nodded back for Nasri.

The Frenchman knocked a quick pass between the centre-backs for the Russian to run onto.

In tracking back, Porto defender Fucile clattered into his keeper, and Bendtner was first to react, stabbing the loose ball into the empty net.

Helton needed treatment for a head injury, caught accidentally by Arshavin, but after a short delay, the Brazilian was able to continue.

With the tie now level, Arsenal looked to go ahead, as Abou Diaby hooked a 12-yard effort over.

Porto continued to pass the ball crisply, but were undone again on 25 minutes.

Fucile's poor clearance was latched onto by Arshavin.

The diminutive Russian weaved into the left side of the penalty box, before pulling the ball back along the six-yard box to Bendtner, who, despite what he showed here on Saturday, just could not miss.

Arsenal were somewhat fortunate when Brazil forward Hulk - who is serving a four-month domestic ban for a fracas with a steward after a match against Benfica - capitalised on a mistake by right-back Gael Clichy and cut in towards goal, but stabbed his shot into the arms of Almunia.

Helton touched Bendtner's curling effort around the post.
From the corner, Diaby's downward header was clawed away by the Porto keeper, who also denied Nasri in stoppage time.

There was a scare at the start of the second half when Tomas Rosicky gave the ball away to Hulk, but fortunately for the Czech winger, the Porto striker was again off target.

Almunia then had to be on his toes as Falcao drove in a low snapshot, which the Spaniard gathered at the second attempt.
Rosicky, who appeared to be carrying a knee problem, was replaced by Emmanuel Eboue just before the hour as Wenger looked to breathe new life into his side.

Arsenal, though, were anything but convincing at the back - with Nasri clearing a header from substitute Cristian Rodriguez off the line.

The Frenchman, however, then settled any nerves with a quite brilliant individual goal after 64 minutes.

After collecting the ball just outside the area on the right, Nasri twisted past three Porto defenders before drilling a low shot in off the far post from the tightest of angles.

Safe passage to the quarter-finals was assured three minutes later when, following a Porto corner, Arshavin broke quickly down the left, holding the ball up before releasing the on-rushing Eboue, who rounded the keeper and stroked in a fourth.

Porto had lost here 4-0 in the group stages last season, which was their worst away reverse in the competition.

And over the final 20 minutes, it was a case of damage limitation for Jesualdo Ferreira's men.

Nasri was given a well-earned rest as he left the field to a standing ovation, replaced by defensive midfielder Denilson.

Fellow substitute Theo Walcott looked lively after he came on for Arshavin, and Bendtner headed a good hat-trick chance wide.

Eboue was brought down for by Fucile to concede a penalty in the final minute - which the young Dane stroked into the bottom corner to collect the match ball.

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Walcott unfazed by critics  

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Arsenal forward Theo Walcott hopes his impressive display against Burnley will silence his critics.

Walcott was criticised for making little impact in England's friendly with Egypt last week.

The Gunners star's response came in Saturday's 3-1 win at the Emirates, with a second-half goal capping a notable performance for the experienced youngster.

"I have had so many injuries this season, people don't realise how hard it is to come back from setback after setback after setback," said Walcott who is ready to shrug off opinion from outsiders.

"You can't be at your best straightaway and if you think you can, then you put more pressure on yourself. That's what I had been doing this season.

"I heard what has been going on but I don't listen to people on the outside of football.

"I listen to people around me - the boss [Arsene Wenger], Mr Capello, my family and the people around me.

"The best thing is I do know what's going on on the outside, but I don't listen to it, I only listen to people around me.

"It's doesn't bother me whatsoever - maybe if I keep performing like that it will shut people up."

carried away

The former Southampton trainee, though, stressed there is still room for improvement in his game.

"Hopefully this is a kick-start for me, but I am not going to get carried away or too big about myself," he said.

"I will look back at my performance and see what I can do better.

"I will study my performance on a DVD and see what I can do better, and will take whatever I can into Tuesday's [Champions League] game against Porto."

The Barclays Premier League title race sees Manchester United two points clear at the top of the table after their victory at Wolverhampton Wanderers at the weekend.

Chelsea and Arsenal are now level on points below the current champions and Walcott believes the Gunners are still in with a chance of taking the top spot.

"Of course we believed we could get back into the title race and we have shown that lately," he said.

"It is a funny season, everyone is beating each other - but we have shown that belief and hopefully that will remain for the whole season now."

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