Arsenal keep up title challenge with solid win

Arsenal 3 Wigan 0

Robin van Persie smashed a hat-trick as Arsenal kept up their Barclays Premier League title challenge with a 3-0 win over 10-man Wigan at the Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners should have been out of sight by half-time, but had only van Persie's 21st-minute strike to show for their dominance as Latics keeper Ali Al Habsi made a string of fine saves.

The in-form Dutchman eventually fired in a second just before the hour, but then blasted a penalty over the bar after Gary Caldwell had been sent off for pulling back Cesc Fabregas.

However, van Persie duly completed his hat-trick with five minutes left to make it six in the last three games.

Arsenal - with five changes from the starting XI which beat Leeds in their FA Cup third round replay on Wednesday night - started brightly.

Wigan keeper Al Habsi had to be alert as he got down quickly to save Samir Nasri's shot on the turn.

The Omani then produced a simply stunning one-handed block to palm away a point-blank shot from van Persie.

Wigan were in danger of being overrun, but to their credit the visitors continued to try to go on the offensive themselves.

Walcott dashed to the goalline and pulled the ball back for Fabregas, who looked set to open the scoring, only for Caldwell to produce a superb block.

Arsenal eventually took the lead on 21 minutes after more patient build-up.

Alex Song released van Persie, who was just onside, into the left of the penalty area - and the Dutchman fired in his fourth goal in three games.

Wigan continued to be pressed back in their own half. However, Arsenal could not make the most of possession.

Al Habsi denied Fabregas with another fine save before Maynor Figueroa made a last-gasp tackle just as the skipper looked set to slot the ball in at the near post.

Arsenal should have been 2-0 ahead when Walcott raced clear down the centre, but squared to Fabregas rather than try to round the keeper. Mohamed Diame made a saving tackle before Steven Caldwell threw himself of Walcott's follow-up shot from the loose ball.

Al Habsi tipped over a 20-yard drive from Nasri, then kept out Fabregas' low shot as the Gunners cut Wigan open time and again.

However, much to the frustration of the home fans, Arsenal were once again unable to turn their dominance into goals before the interval.

Wigan were much more competitive at the start of the second half following the introduction of Franco Di Santo, replacing Diame.

Slowly, though, the Gunners regained dominance as Walcott nipped into the right channel, but the angle was too high and his shot flew wide.

When the second Arsenal goal finally came on 58 minutes, it was simple, yet breathtaking.

Fabregas chipped a 30-yard ball over the defence, and van Persie got ahead of Gary Caldwell to crash a left-foot volley past Al Habsi at the far post.

Jack Wilshere charged forwards, but then drilled a low shot wide from 20 yards.

Arsenal were awarded a penalty on 69 minutes when Gary Caldwell pulled back Fabregas in the six-yard box, and was shown a red card.

Van Persie stepped up for his hat-trick, but uncharacteristically blasted the spot-kick high over the crossbar.

The Dutchman almost made amends with a curling effort from 20 yards which struck the post.

Song's low shot from 20 yards flew just wide before van Persie finally secured the matchball when he smashed home from a tight angle after Walcott had held the ball up in the penalty area.

Arsenal moved above Manchester City, who play later this evening, and continued their momentum ahead of the Carling Cup semi-final second leg against Ipswich here on Tuesday night, when you feel a slender one-goal lead for the npower Championship side is unlikely to be enough to keep the Gunners from Wembley.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
Sport
Ronaldinho signs the t-shirt of a pitch invader
footballProof they are getting bolder
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
News
William Hague
people... when he called Hague the county's greatest
Voices
voicesBy the man who has
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
Sport
Arsene Wenger tried to sign Eden Hazard
footballAfter 18 years with Arsenal, here are 18 things he has still never done as the Gunners' manager
News
Floyd
newsFloyd 'Creeky' Creekmore still performed regularly to raise money for local hospitals
Extras
indybestKeep extra warm this year with our 10 best bedspreads
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?