Thu, Dec 29, 2011 - Page 18 News List

Understrength Wolves frustrate Arsenal

AFP, LONDON

Arsenal’s Robin Van Persie, right, attempts a shot on goal in an English Premier League soccer match against the Wolves at the Emirates Stadium in London on Tuesday.

Photo: EPA

Arsenal missed the opportunity to climb into the top four of the Premier League after 10-man Wolves held them to a 1-1 draw at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday.

Gervinho gave the hosts the lead before Steven Fletcher leveled just before halftime, with Wolves holding on for a draw despite having Nenad Milijas sent off with a quarter of an hour remaining.

Arsenal were frustrated by referee Stuart Attwell, who turned down a penalty appeal in the second half.

The result also meant Gunners striker Robin van Persie only has one more game left to find the two goals he needs to equal Alan Shearer’s Premier League record of 36 in a calendar year.

“It is very frustrating,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. “You won’t play many draws like that in a season, but sometimes it can happen.”

Delighted Wolves manager Mick McCarthy added: “I’m extremely proud. I think everyone has seen a real fighting performance from us today. We have had to defend and we did that for 20 minutes with 10 men.”

Wenger’s men knew victory would take them back into the Champions League places after Chelsea had drawn against Fulham in the west London derby on Monday.

However, Arsenal were without Theo Walcott because of illness, but Yossi Benayoun was rewarded with his first Premier League start for the club after heading in the winner against Aston Villa in his previous game.

The Gunners again started with a makeshift defense, with Johan Djourou and Thomas Vermaelen at full-back.

Djourou struggled in the opening exchanges, with Matt Jarvis getting behind him but having his shot blocked by Per Mertesacker rushing back.

Arsenal broke the deadlock in the eighth minute with a counter-attack that started with Tomas Rosicky holding the ball up on the right flank.

The ball was shifted inside to Benayoun, who played through Gervinho and the Ivory Coast forward, played onside by Ronald Zubar, took the ball around Hennessey and beat the defender on the line with his finish.

Arsenal could have extended their lead shortly afterwards when Gervinho slipped van Persie through, but the Dutchman dragged his shot wide with just Hennessey to beat.

Van Persie then set up a chance for Mikel Arteta when he pinched the ball from Karl Henry, but Roger Johnson got back to block.

Henry lost the ball again when van Persie raced through, but Johnson brought him down on the edge of the area, earning the Wolves skipper a yellow card.

Arsenal captain van Persie then went closer with a drive toward the near post that was well saved by Hennessey, but Wolves drew level seven minutes before the break when Milijas’s corner fell to Stephen Hunt on the edge of the penalty area.

Hunt juggled the ball and got a shot away, which was deflected by Laurent Koscielny into the path of Fletcher, who headed into the bottom-left corner for his seventh goal of the season.

Arsenal struggled to find rhythm at the start of the second half after the blow of conceding an equalizer.

Attwell turned down a penalty appeal when Koscielny’s cross appeared to be blocked by Christophe Berra’s arm, with Vermaelen receiving a yellow card for his protests.

Wolves were reduced to 10 men with 15 minutes remaining though, with Milijas dismissed for a tackle on Arteta.

“What concerns me is we are being targeted as this dirty team, but Nenad Milijas has not got a bad bone in his body,” McCarthy said. “I can’t for the life of me see why he has been sent off, his foot was on the floor, he made contact with the ball and I can’t work out which bit of that makes it a bad tackle.”

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