Hull 1 Arsenal 2: Last-gasp Bendtner keeps Gunners firing in title race

14 March 2010 12:04
Another horror tackle, another last-gasp win against 10 men and another step towards what would be an incredible title triumph.

The foul on Bacary Sagna which earned George Boateng his secondyellow card in first-half stoppage time - but ought to have brought astraight red - looked to be far worse than the challenge by Stoke'sRyan Shawcross that had broken Aaron Ramsey's leg in two places afortnight before.

Fortunately, Sagna appeared to have avoided serious injury andArsenal were perhaps lucky to win at the death, just as they had at theBritannia Stadium.

Saint Nicklas: Bendtner scored in the 93rd minute to give Arsenal all three points

This time, it seemed that there would be no late rally, that ArseneWenger would pay the price for trusting in Sol Campbell, whose errorhad led to Hull's equaliser and that his team would be rueing a poorsecond-half display in May.

But then striker Nicklas Bendtner capitalised on Hull goalkeeperBoaz Myhill's mistake and completed his metamorphosis frombanjo-wielding cow's-backside avoider, to unlikely late-season herowith the winner in the third minute of stoppage time. Bendtner's goal,following the Champions League hat-trick which had banished memories oflast Saturday's misses against Burnley, was hard on Hull.

They had defended manfully when required to do so and were on theverge of adding a draw against Arsenal to wins over Chelsea andManchester City at home.

Spot on: Bullard blasts his first half penalty past the diving Almunia

It may be harder still on manager Phil Brown, whose job was rumouredto be in jeopardy after last Sunday's 5-1 drubbing at Everton and thespat between Jimmy Bullard and Nick Barmby, which was witnessed by ofthe Women's Institute.

This match then, was an appropriately dramatic end to another weekin the soap opera which is the Premier League. Never one to turn downthe chance for some hyperbole, Brown had billed the game as 'the startof a massively important era in my life and a massively important erain the history of Hull City'.

Dismissed: Boateng was sent off after receiving a second booking for a dangerous tackle on Sagna

For good measure, he added that Hull needed 'a massive, massiveeffort' in their last 10 games to retain their Premier League status.

But for almost half an hour, the massiveness of the game seemed tohave escaped his players, as Arsenal wove pretty patterns on a playingsurface that should have stopped their fluid football in its tracks -and Andrey Arshavin's fine finish gave them a 13th-minute lead. So far,so comfortable.

But when you are relying on a 35-year-old centre-half playing onlyhis third Premier League game of the season to defend a one-goal lead,there is always the possibility you will lose it.

And so it was when Hull equalised out of nothing. Dean Marneyflicked on Bullard's pass to an offside-looking Jan Vennegoor ofHesselink and Campbell, on the wrong side of the Dutchman, brought himdown with a clumsy challenge.

Campbell, probably rightly, escaped with just a yellow card, but Bullard's emphatic penalty woke up the crowd - and the match.

From Russia with love: Arshavin gave Arsenal the lead early on in the first half

Until then, the needle between the two clubs which derived from somespicy encounters in the last two seasons had been confined to thestands, the home fans answering the Arsenal supporters' song for Ramseywith an unsavoury hymn in praise of Shawcross.

But when the animosity transferred itself to the pitch, a red cardsoon followed. Boateng should arguably have been sent off for raisinghis hands to Bendtner after Andy Dawson's foul on Denilson.

But it defies explanation how referee Andre Marriner failed to showhim a straight red for the knee-high, studs-up foul on Sagna fiveminutes later. Another yellow card was enough to send him on his waybut, when he sees the replay, Marriner will surely feel that Boatengshould be facing a three-game ban for violent conduct, rather than aone-game suspension.

Great Dane: Arsenal players mob goalscorer Bendtner after his late winner

The question, then, was whether Arsenal could, as they had at Stoke,find the physical and mental qualities required to put away a sidereduced to 10 men.

Or it should have been. But instead, Wenger's team had concerns atthe other end, where Campbell lurched from the ridiculous to thesublime and back again.

First, he was left for dead by Jozy Altidore, then produced a fine last-ditch tackle to halt the charging Zayatte, before finally being fortunate to escape a second yellow card for handball just outside the penalty area.

Arsenal had created absolutely nothing in the second half until TheoWalcott came on, but his first touches led only to Arshavin miscuinghis shot horribly.

Head in hands: Boaz Myhill could only parry Denilson's shot which led to Arsenal's dramatic stoppage-time winner

Despite playing most of the last 20 minutes in Hull's third of the pitch, the crucial goal eluded Arsenal until Myhill inexplicably punched Denilson's shot out to Bendtner, who made no mistake.

It felt inevitable but it was tough on Hull and Brown nonetheless.

The Hull manager, whose side travel to fellow relegation candidates Portsmouth next Saturday, said: 'I apologised to the Women's Institute for the fighting spirit we showed in public, but I make no apology for the fighting spirit we showed today.

'If we bring that kind of pride and performance to the table for the next nine games, we've got no problems.'

And if Arsenal can keep eking out wins like this - despite Campbell's vulnerability - then they really could be Premier League champions once again.

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Source: Daily_Mail