Shaw shot seals it for Gunners

Southampton 0 Arsenal 2 Hughes 41, Shaw 72 Attendance: 15,144
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The Independent Online
Arsenal are refusing to go quietly. They made light of several key absences at the Dell yesterday and secured their third consecutive win to remain in the hunt for the Premiership title. Southampton, on the other hand, are fading away almost with a whimper and their top division status looks under dire threat after 20 years.

The weaknesses apparent on the Arsenal team-sheet did not immediately reveal themselves on the field as they settled rapidly on a delightful, sunny day. Dennis Bergkamp was involved early, twice sending in delicate balls from the left - one along the floor, one in the air - aimed for David Platt running from midfield. Platt was not quite swift enough to make contact with the first and headed over from the second. Arsenal's control in those initial minutes was doubtless what their goalkeeper Lee Harper had hoped for. He is fourth in the Highbury pecking order but injuries to both David Seaman and John Lukic gave him his chance with Vince Bartram on loan at Wolves. One of Southampton's solitary consolations was the form and appetite of Matt Le Tissier. Maybe it was the sun, maybe the familiar urgency of Southampton's plight, but the old touches were there as early as the eighth minute when he laid off a simple ball which might have caused all kinds of havoc had the recipient been more aware. A free- kick swerved wide of the post and his beautifully deceptive close skills in the area led to a cross which Egil Ostenstad could not reach. But Arsenal were still a clear menace and, when Bergkamp was sent dashing clear by Nigel Winterburn, the smart money was on his scoring. Maik Taylor judged his angles to perfection and blocked the subsequent shot with his feet.

The desperate need displayed by both sides to gather points, for different reasons, became increasingly clear. Le Tissier, from six yards out, should have done the decent thing with a Mike Evans cross, though Harper's speed scurrying across his line to cover deserved some credit. Bergkamp, on the left again, put Paul Shaw in the clear after 37 minutes but his snatched shot was blocked. It took a mistake four minutes later for Arsenal to take the lead, Taylor was terribly at fault when he emerged from his line to claim Ray Parlour's innocuous cross and dropped it. Steve Hughes had the elementary task of drilling his first League goal for the Gunners.

Southampton threw men forward almost with abandon in pursuit of the equaliser. There was not much science to their attacks but Richard Dryden forced a save from Harper when he headed Robbie Slater's cross towards the centre of the goal. For all the movement around the Arsenal box, clear chances were in short supply and Le Tissier's short free-kick was somewhat wantonly wasted by Jim Magilton's errant volley.

A skirmish off the ball between Le Tissier and Patrick Vieira concluded with Le Tissier being pushed to the ground and seemingly kicked. Whatever the provocation, Vieira might have considered himself fortunate to stay in the proceedings.

Such fractious behaviour was by no means isolated. Tempers were short, tackles were hard and referee Jeff Winter flourished five yellow cards. The issue was settled in the 73rd minute when Parlour's pass from the right was deflected into the pass of Shaw, who converted the chance unfussily. Southampton had little left to give.