Fabregas injury rocks Arsenal's bandwagon
Arsenal 3 Burnley 1
Sunday 07 March 2010
Despite an avalanche of chances, Arsenal couldn't manage the four-goal victory that would have sent them temporarily to the Premier League summit, but a fourth successive triumph added to their belief that they can come up on the rails and land the title.
A traumatic week following Aaron Ramsey's horrendous leg-break at Stoke ended on a high note, though there was fresh concern when the peerless Cesc Fabregas left the field after 39 minutes with a hamstring injury. The Spaniard had put his side ahead by that stage but Arsène Wenger was clearly concerned. "He has a hamstring problem in his right leg and how big the damage is we don't know," said the manager, whose side must overcome a 2-1 deficit against Porto in the Champions' League on Tuesday. "We'll have to make a late decision about him for Porto."
Theo Walcott and substitute Andrey Arshavin added second-half goals following David Nugent's equaliser, and had Nicklas Bendtner not reverted to type after a run of three goals in as many games for club and country, Arsenal would have won by a distance. "We had the chances but didn't take them today and that's why it was tight until the end," said Wenger.
T-shirts worn by Arsenal's players and banners in the crowd lent support to Ramsey, who vowed to "return fitter and stronger" when talking about the incident for the first time.
The Welshman's team-mates could thus be forgiven for brist-ling whenever Burnley put a foot in. Wenger was off his seat protesting when Brian Jensen bore down on the advancing Samir Nasri even though it was the keeper's ball to win.
Walcott was equally upset when Daniel Fox slid in and, quite fairly, won the ball. "It is obviously still fresh in their minds," conceded Burnley's manager, Brian Laws. Yet Burnley were ideal opponents, arriv-ing with a solitary point from 14 away games and offered at 20-1 to win by one bookmaker.
Arsenal should have capitalised after 10 minutes. Bendtner was sent through by an exquisite Fabregas pass, but Martin Paterson made a brilliant recovery tackle. Bendtner also was slow to read Emmanuel Eboué's low cross and Tomas Rosicky volleyed narrowly wide.
Home pressure bore fruit with the opening goal after 34 minutes. Fabregas fed the excellent Nasri on the edge of Burnley's area and delayed his run to collect Nasri's lofted return pass, which hoodwinked the returning skipper Graham Alexander and the sluggish Jensen. Fabregas slipped the ball past the keeper for his 14th League goal this season.
Had Bendtner not squandered a free header from Walcott's cross and fired over from a Walcott lay-off early in the second half, the game would have been put to bed. Yet Burnley scored an unlikely equaliser when Bendtner failed to challenge Clarke Carlisle after an Arsenal clearance. The defender's header bisected the centre-backs Mikaël Silvestre and Thomas Vermaelen, and Nugent lobbed Manuel Almunia.
Yet Arsenal, with Nasri and Denilson at the heart of their play, were soon probing again and Walcott grew in confidence. Jensen saved well from Nasri and Walcott but the England winger put his side back in front, cutting in from the flank and firing across Jensen and into the net with his left foot.
Burnley's substitute Steven Thompson should have brought the scores level but drove over the bar when well positioned and Arshavin, on for Rosicky, settled the nerves with a similar finish to Walcott's just before the end, with Jensen this time beaten inside his near post.
"There were many pleasing things but we sat too deep in the first half and allowed them too much possession," said Laws. "They are invariably going to hurt you if you do that." The pain could have been much worse.
Referee: Chris Foy
Man of the match: Nasri
Match rating: 7/10
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