Rampaging Bendtner leaves Albion reeling
West Bromwich Albion 1 Arsenal 3
Wednesday 04 March 2009
Ok, it was only the Albion. But this was the kind of emphatic rout that may just put Arsenal's season back on track and, with it, resurrect the career of the maligned Nicklas Bendtner.
"Super Nick" sang the visiting supporters and there are not many times the striker will have heard that. But his performance drove Arsenal forward. Having, at one point on Sunday, been in danger of falling eight points behind fourth-placed Aston Villa, the gap is now just three.
Villa are away to Manchester City tonight and may extend the advantage but there was little prospect of their near neighbours helping them – and themselves – last night. West Bromwich were comprehensively trounced and relegation appears inevitable. Yet again undone by their own errors, amid all their pretty football, they appear deflated, defeated.
For Bendtner, with two goals and almost several others, this could be a watershed match as he combined brilliantly with the impressive Andrei Arshavin. "He has shown tonight he has the talent to be an Arsenal player," Arsène Wenger said of the 21-year-old Dane who has previously struggled, apart from his lime-green boots, to show any illumination.
"It's difficult when you play for Arsenal Football Club and you are compared to the players who played five, six, 10 years ago and you have to accept that. But I like his presence and his determined attitude. It shows he has improved a lot." For the Arsenal manager, also, there is frustration.
This was a 14th league game unbeaten which should have meant form to tilt at the title. But maddening draws, the failure to convert opportunities, have led instead to this desperate scramble for fourth place. Then again, they don't play West Brom every week and it took just three minutes and 45 seconds against the Baggies to do what Arsenal have failed to do in their past four league matches – bag a goal.
It came as Jonathan Greening headed a corner out to Denilson who, with time and space, arced a pass to Bendtner, pulling away to the right edge of the area. Ryan Donk was slow to cover and Bendtner rolled a low shot around Scott Carson and into the net.
"It's a bit galling," spat Tony Mowbray. "They have gone four games without scoring and we gave them a goal in four minutes." The West Brom manager has clearly had enough. He didn't hold back in his criticism of his team and individual players. "We shoot ourselves in the foot. It's all about our defending. We can't win matches if we defend like that."
Wenger probably felt the same about West Bromwich's quick equaliser. Chris Brunt's free-kick from 30 yards was fierce enough but it went straight through the Arsenal wall and more specifically the legs of Emmanuel Eboué to beat the unsighted Manuel Almunia. Only seven minutes had elapsed and it was end to end. Bendtner fired over, Eboué did also, while Almunia saved smartly from Luke Moore's chest down and low shot.
Then West Brom gifted another goal. And another. Arshavin bent in a free-kick, Kolo Touré evaded Gianni Zuiverloon and easily headed beyond Carson. On half-time, Abdoulaye Méité erred, leaving Bendtner who ran on to Touré's innocuous long ball forward, waited for it to drop and struck a crisp shot into the net.
Arsenal lost Touré to injury, a tight calf, but it didn't hinder them. Carson, three times, thwarted Arshavin while Bendtner ran across goal to drive a shot against the post and, again, shot over. The hard-working Marc-Antoine Fortuné should have reduced the advantage only for his low drive to be tipped away by Almunia. But Arsenal's supremacy was complete.
Goals: Bendtner (4) 0-1; Brunt (7) 1-1; Touré (38) 1-2; Bendtner (44) 1-3.
West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Carson; Zuiverloon, Méité, Donk, Robinson; Morrison (Menseguez, 72), Koren, Greening, Brunt (Teixeira, 72); Moore, Fortuné. Substitutes not used: Kiely (gk), Hoefkens, Cech, Kim, Valero.
Arsenal (4-4-2): Almunia; Sagna, Touré (Diaby, 46), Djourou, Clichy; Eboué (Ramsey, 67), Song, Denilson, Nasri (Merida, 83); Arshavin, Bendtner. Substitutes not used: Fabianski (gk), Van Persie, Vela, Gibbs.
Referee: S Tanner (Somerset).
Booked: West Bromwich Koren, Brunt.
Man of the match: Bendtner.
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