Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Arsenal fail to hammer home advantage

Wigan 2 Arsenal 2
Wigan 2 Arsenal 2
Wigan 2 Arsenal 2

Wigan 2 Arsenal 2: Arsenal let 10-man Wigan off the hook as a late own goal prevented the Gunners joining the Manchester clubs at the top of the Premier League.

It was not the disaster of last season, when Arsenal collapsed from 2-0 up to lose 3-2, but manager Arsene Wenger — who had gambled on eight changes from the side which beat Chelsea on Monday — will feel easy points were dropped in the tightest of title races.

The Gunners led 2-1, with Charles N'Zogbia having been sent off for Wigan, only for the home side to level thanks to an own goal from Sebastian Squillaci.

Ben Watson's penalty had given the home side a deserved lead, but Arsenal replied to take the lead at the break through Andrei Arshavin's brilliant scissor-kick and Nicklas Bendtner's well-taken strike.

Perhaps Wenger's changes heartened Wigan because they started off in spirited fashion and had the Gunners rocking on their heels.

Much of Arsenal's early struggles were self-inflicted.

Squillaci gave up a contest with Hugo Rodallega claiming he had been fouled and fellow centre-back Laurent Koscielny had to rescue him with a perfectly-timed challenge in the box.

Then Bendtner's appallingly loose pass was seized upon by N'Zogbia, who rattled in a low shot which was comfortable for Lukasz Fabianksi.

Tomas Rosicky, Arsenal's captain on the night, finally managed to bring some composure to the visitors and his vision set Arshavin free only for the Russian to fire over the bar.

In the 17th minute Wigan broke swiftly and N'Zogbia burst down the right before tumbled over Koscielny's trailing leg just on the edge of the box.

A penalty looked the right decision and Watson hammered it home to give the home side a deserved lead.

Arsenal were a whisker away from an equaliser when Rosicky's shot was parried by Al Habsi and Koscielny looked favourite to slot home, only for Gary Caldwell to dive in bravely.

Before the half-hour was out, Wenger was forced to make a change with Jack Wilshere coming on for the injured Abou Diaby.

Arshavin had been at his frustrating worst for most of the half but it was down to his brilliant volley that Arsenal equalised six minutes before the break.

Marouane Chamakh had lobbed the ball on for Bendtner to hit a shot on the bounce and, when Al Habsi managed to keep it out, it dropped for Arshavin to strike a lovely scissor-kick home.

The goal seemed to breathe life into Arsenal and particularly Arshavin, who created a goal for Bendtner in the 43rd minute.

Arshavin tussled for and won possession in the centre circle, then bustled forward and found Bendtner, who used his strength to brush off a couple of weak challenges before coolly finishing.

Having played so well, N'Zogbia then got himself sent off for pushing his head into Wilshere's face after an exchange of words, leaving referee Lee Probert little option but to show red.

Far from being disheartened, the dismissal fired up the home side and with 10 minutes left they equalised.

Rodallega headed back a corner at the far post and Squillaci, trying to thwart Caldwell, could only head into his own net as once more the Gunners left the DW Stadium frustrated.

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