Bendtner personifies Gunners' title desire
Hull City 1 Arsenal 2
Monday 15 March 2010
If titles were awarded for mental strength, unbreakable spirit and dramatic victories, the Premier League trophy would be handed over to Arsène Wenger and his Arsenal players now. Sadly for Wenger it isn't, but this doesn't mean his long wait for more silverware won't come to an end in a few weeks' time as Arsenal's remarkable refusal to abandon hope of pipping Manchester United and Chelsea to the most coveted domestic crown continues.
It seems no matter what tactics, by foul mean or fair, opponents use to try and halt Arsenal's charge, Wenger's side still manage to come up with the answers. Arsenal's fifth straight league victory was secured by Nicklas Bendtner's fourth goal in two games and his side's fifth in stoppage time in the last four games.
Brave Hull City had been reduced to 10 men before the interval when George Boateng poked Bendtner in the eye to earn his first booking, then promptly hacked down Bacary Sagna with the sort of challenge deserving of a red card in itself and one Wenger continues to have nightmares about.
Yet Hull, who had seen Jimmy Bullard's first-half penalty cancel out Andrei Arshavin's 13th-minute opener, defended like their lives depended on it until the dying moments, when Bo Myhill parried Denilson's speculative drive into the path of Bendtner.
Arsenal might be bearing the physical scars of the title race, but Bendtner and Wenger insist the club's inner spirit remains untouched. Bendtner said: "I always believe right until the last minute that we can do it because I've seen it so many times. People think it's over and then we score a goal out of nothing. We know it's important to keep going right to the end."
Wenger concurred: "When I see them on the pitch, I know they will not give up. These kind of wins strengthen our belief, but I think it is more a consequence of our spot-on attitude. For such a young team to have that is something special. It comes from the desire to win something.
"This team hasn't won anything yet. We started to build this team three or four years ago, the age is around 22 and now people are saying, 'yes, but what did you win'? That desire to win something is certainly evident. We haven't won anything yet and as long as you have not won anything it will play on your mind. But we have built a good squad with exceptional spirit."
Bendtnar called on the authorities to stamp out once and for all the number of dangerous tackles creeping back into the game and admitted Boateng's lunge at Sagna could have seen a repeat of the horror inflicted on Aaron Ramsey at Stoke last month.
"You don't poke someone in the eye on the pitch when the ref isn't looking. For me, that's not fair. I said that to him [Boateng] and he got a bit upset. He took it out on Bacary and rightly got a red card. It was a poor challenge. You can see Bacary's knee and it's got stud marks [on it]."
One win in three months suggests Hull are doomed and the problems are mounting. The dressing room remains a fractious place following the fall-out between Bullard and Nick Barmby, while midfielder Tom Cairney had to be left out of the squad in the wake of the club's row with his unlicensed agent over a new contract.
Brown, whose side travel to Portsmouth next weekend, said: "Against the bigger sides, we show that grit and determination. We didn't against Everton last week but Portsmouth is a big test. We have to bring that fight to the party. But it's not about one or two individuals, it's about the team, and they took a lot of pride from this game."
Hull City (4-4-2): Myhill; Mendy, Zayatte (Cooper, 56) Mouyokolo, Dawson; Fagan, Boateng, Bullard, Marney; Hesselink (Garcia, 73), Altidore (Kilbane, 83). Substitutes not used: Barmby, Duke, Zaki, Olofinjana.
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Almunia; Sagna, Vermaelen, Campbell, Clichy; Denilson, Diaby; Eboué (Walcott, 66), Nasri (Eduardo, 75), Arshavin; Bendtner. Substitutes not used: Fabianski, Silvestre, Traoré, Merida, Eastmond.
Referee: Andre Marriner (Birmingham).
Booked: Hull Dawson, Boateng. Arsenal Campbell, Bendtner.
Sent-off: Hull Boateng.
Man of the match: Vermaelen.
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