Charlton Athletic 1 Arsenal 2: Van Persie's brutal flair fires Wenger celebration

Gunners produce a gifted performance for manager's 10th anniversary
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The Independent Football

At the end of a week in which Arséne Wenger celebrated 10 years as Arsenal manager - his contract started a decade ago today - a result which suggested Iain Dowie may do well to remain 10 months at Charlton Athletic.

A sixth defeat in seven Premiership matches is daunting, especially as luck has also deserted them. Although Charlton contributed richly to this entertaining encounter, taking the lead through Darren Bent and later having a clear penalty denied, they succumbed to two accomplished Robin van Persie goals. The striker's second was simply exceptional.

It certainly had Wenger purring. "Full pace, full power, technically perfect," he said of the left-footed volley. "It was quite unbelievable. It was the goal of a lifetime." Indeed he rated it among the "top five" Arsenal have scored in the Wenger decade which, given the avalanche of elegant strikes which preceded it, was some assessment.

But it was also some goal. When Emmanuel Eboué scampered down the right on 49 minutes, there was no Arsenal player remotely close to the penalty area. But the full-back sent in a deep cross which the on-rushing Van Persie, on the area's edge, met mid-air and bulleted into the top corner. It was both brutal and graceful.

However there was also, once more, controversy surrounding the striker. In the first-half he tangled with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. There appeared to be a kick. His fellow Dutchman certainly made a meal of it and threw himself to the turf. A yellow card was shown. It could have been red. For a while Van Persie appeared to lose his head. Wenger thought about withdrawing him but held his nerve.

Instead Van Persie was marginally beaten in the hate-figure stakes for Charlton fans by the referee, Mark Clattenburg, who failed to act on a crude challenge by Justin Hoyte on Kevin Lisbie and when William Gallas's outstretched arm blocked Bent's overhead kick in the area. "In the 10 years my eyesight has not got better," Wenger said of that incident.

For Dowie it was cruel. He took responsibility for his side's start to the season ("I'm smarting from it") but he also hoped Clattenburg would do the same. "I've made mistakes," Dowie said. "But all I expect is a referee to say 'I got it wrong'."

It was Arsenal, erroneously, who felt aggrieved when Charlton went ahead. Hermann Hreidarsson pumped a long ball forward and Hasselbaink was inside the last line of defence. Arsenal appealed for offside but Hasselbaink, who hadn't strayed, sent in a low cross that was swept home by Bent. It was his fifth goal from Charlton's total of six.

In truth Arsenal should have already scored. Cesc Fabregas headed over from Thierry Henry's dinked cross and then the Arsenal captain, on his 350th appearance, had a point-blank shot blocked by the goalkeeper, Scott Carson. They drew level, however, when Henry nut-megged Hreidarsson to find Alexander Hleb who turned nimbly, twice, and found Van Persie with a cross which was quickly drilled beyond Carson.

For a while Charlton looked ragged. Jonathan Fortune was dispossessed by Hleb in his own area but Henry wasted the opportunity before, at the other end, Jens Lehmann saved sharply from Andy Reid who was, otherwise, a huge disappointment.

Charlton then had their penalty claim turned down while Arsenal missed a host of chances. But the best opportunity fell to Hasselbaink. Bryan Hughes swung in a free-kick which caught out the Arsenal defence. It reached Hasselbaink, in space, but he headed wide. "When I saw it was him I thought it was 2-2," said Wenger, his eyesight temporarily improved. Dowie probably thought the same. But the breaks are just not going for Charlton, who after Sheffield United's first win last night are rock-bottom.

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