Arsenal 3 Burnley 1: match report
When Chelsea and Manchester United delivered chastening and consecutive beatings to Arsenal just one month ago, it was not only Michael Ballack who concluded that the Premier League title race was between two clubs. At Arsenal, several senior players had also expressed the view that Arsenal could not fall nine points adrift of Chelsea and realistically expect to win the league. Related ArticlesPremier League tableRamsey 'overwhelmed by terrific support'Alan Smith: Arsenal begin to flex their musclesFA Cup actionPremier League fixturesTelegraph player raterArsene Wenger predictably disagreed but, even taking into account his eternal optimism, he would surely never have believed that his team could draw level again with Chelsea within four matches. Yet had Nicklas Bendtner taken all of his chances against Burnley, Arsenal would also have comfortably won by the four-goal margin that was needed to go back to the top of the Premier League. As it was, a somewhat nervy 3-1 victory - with goals from Cesc Fabregas, Theo Walcott and Andrei Arshavin - was greeted with relief rather than joy by most inside the Emirates. Arsenal had made their own pre-match tribute to Aaron Ramsey, coming onto the pitch with T-shirts sporting the name and number of the Wales midfielder. The tackle which broke their team-mate's leg, however, appeared to be on the mind of Walcott, who reacted with uncharacteristic anger following one particularly forceful - but well-timed - sliding challenge from Danny Fox. Walcott did manage to avoid contact with Fox, yet immediately got to his feet and confronted the Burnley left-back, shoving him twice in the chest. Given the circumstances, referee Chris Foy sensibly applied some common-sense in simply speaking to both players and pointing out to Walcott that Fox had played the ball. Arsenal had made the more positive start but, for a team who had collected just one away point all season, Burnley were initially resilient. Bendtner and Tomas Rosicky both shot wide from good early opportunities, with Emmanuel Eboue causing persistent problems down the right when overlapping beyond Walcott. He provided two particularly inviting chances for Bendtner, but the Dane's finishing was wayward. Arsenal eventually needed to produce a sublime moment of passing to break the deadlock. Fabregas had fed the ball into Samir Nasri, who simply glanced up and lifted a delightful pass over the Burnley defence and back into the path of his captain. There was no hint of panic from Fabregas who, rather than snatch at the opportunity, calmly guided the ball through the legs of Burnley goalkeeper Brian Jensen. Bendtner then missed two further chances to create a two-goal cushion before Arsenal's profligacy was punished. Clarke Carlisle headed hopefully forward yet provoked unnecessary confusion between Mikael Silvestre and Thomas Vermaelen, who both stood off and allowed David Nugent to guide the ball over Manuel Almunia with his shin. With Bendtner destined not to score, Walcott became increasingly involved and, after flashing one effort beyond Jensen's right-hand post, he brilliantly cut inside and guided a left-footed shot into the bottom of the goal. Bendtner, inevitably, and then Eduardo missed further excellent opportunities before Arshavin completed a 3-1 win in injury-time.
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