English Premiership

Arsenal keep title bid alive

2011-02-02 07:05
Laurent Koscielny (AP)
London - Laurent Koscielny kept Arsenal's title bid alive as his late goal clinched a 2-1 victory over Everton at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday.

Koscielny's winner ensured Arsene Wenger's side cemented second spot and kept them within five points of Manchester United, but for a while it looked as though the Gunners would fall well behind the leaders.

The manner of Arsenal's recovery after falling behind to Louis Saha's controversial goal - adjudged to be legitimate despite the striker clearly standing in an offside position - will strengthen Wenger's belief his side can maintain their title challenge.

Wenger had resisted the temptation to enter the January transfer market despite initially indicating he might move for a centre back.

Instead, he opted to stick with his existing squad as they entered a month that will go a long way towards determining their chances of lifting silverware this season.

The League Cup final on February 27 could end their five-season wait for a trophy, but before then Arsenal face Leyton Orient in the FA Cup fifth round, Barcelona in the first leg of their last 16 Champions League tie as well as a number of vital league games.

It was important, therefore, they made a positive start to the month against an Everton side that has so far been unable to pull themselves clear of the relegation zone.

It was David Moyes' side, though, who made the more positive start, pushing Arsenal back, with Saha in particular causing problems operating as a long striker.

Arsenal eventually settled and forced their first opening of the game when Robin van Persie whipped in a free kick after Sylvain Distin had been booked for a foul on Bacary Sagna.

The Holland international looked sharp and his 16th minute backheel to set up a shooting chance for Cesc Fabregas was superbly weighted and deserved a better finish.

Everton were now very much in survival mode with Distin and fellow centre back John Heitinga repeatedly stretched.

Even so, it was the visitors who unexpectedly claimed a 24th minute lead, sparking angry Arsenal protests.

There was no doubt Saha was well offside when Seamus Coleman attempted to play a pass through the Arsenal back four, but the ball diverted to the Everton striker off the boot of Koscielny.

That was enough to convince the referee and his assistant that Saha's effort should stand after the France international had kept his composure and slotted the ball inside the far post.

The home side's protests went on for some time but the decision stood.

With the home crowd fired up, Arsenal stepped up their efforts after the break with Tomas Rosicky firing narrowly wide after creating space twenty yards out.

Arsenal were getting more desperate the longer the game went on but their nerves were finally settled when Arshavin - on as a second half substitute - volleyed home the equaliser in the 70th minute.

There were parallels with the Everton goal, with Jack Rodwell misdirecting a headed clearance from Fabregas's chip into the path of the Russian who had strayed beyond the defensive line made no mistake with his finish.

The momentum was with Arsenal and Wenger's side deservedly forced their way in front five minutes later.

Keeper Tim Howard produced an excellent save to deny Van Persie but was left unprotected when the Dutchman swung in a left wing corner towards the unmarked Koscielny who headed home from six yards. 

Read more on:    epl  |  laurent koscielny  |  arsenal
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