Monday 19 February 2018

Bendtner slays Tigers with last-gasp strike


Paul Wilson

Maybe this is going to be Arsenal's season after all. They moved above Manchester United into second place, not with a football exhibition, but courtesy of a stoppage-time blunder from Boaz Myhill in the Hull goal.

That was mightily cruel on the Tigers, who made light of having to play with 10 men for the whole of the second half and defended like their namesakes in keeping Arsenal at bay until the 93rd minute, but life is not always fair and many a title challenge has turned on such a piece of luck.

Hull were not quite as accommodating as Porto, yet after just 14 minutes of preliminary exchanges, Arsenal picked up where they left off in midweek by taking the lead with a goal of some quality.

Andrey Arshavin's part in Tuesday's Champions League feast was overlooked once Samir Nasri scored his wonder goal, but here the Russian reprised his trick of going past defenders at will in the penalty area and this time he was the beneficiary.

Taking the ball from Nicklas Bendtner, Arshavin used his knack of keeping possession when he seems to have shown too much to the defender to completely bamboozle George Boateng and Bernard Mendy. Arshavin was clean through, and in the absence of any challenge from Hull's centre-backs he coolly stabbed the ball past Boaz Myhill.

The incisiveness of the strike made most of the home side's forward forays look pedestrian by comparison, yet somewhat fortuitously Hull were back on level terms after half an hour. Fortuitously because Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink was in an offside position when the ball came over the top of the Arsenal defence to reach him. Had the offence been spotted Sol Campbell would have been in the clear; as it was he was obliged to clamber all over the tall striker from behind and concede a fairly soft penalty, one that Jimmy Bullard smashed past Manuel Almunia.

That lifted Hull's confidence, yet still they failed to see out the 15 minutes to the interval without mishap. First Boateng became involved in an argument with Bendtner after Andy Dawson was booked for a foul on Nasri, and picked up a caution himself for pushing the Dane in the face. Then in stoppage-time the Hull captain received a second yellow for a wild challenge on Bacary Sagna, knee-high and studs raised, and so had to go. A Campbell tackle on Kamil Zayatte at the start of the second half looked just as bad.

Even though Campbell played the ball in a 50-50, his follow-through caught Zayatte's ankle and ended the Hull player's participation. Campbell hardly helped himself a couple of minutes later by handling on the edge of his area and getting away with it.

For all that, Hull showed more enterprise with 10 men than they had with 11, with Vennegoor of Hesselink possibly wishing he could play against Campbell every week and Jozy Altidore almost playing him in after a strong run.

Arsenal should have scored when Theo Walcott came on and opened up Hull with his first burst, only for Nasri to take an unhelpful touch and Arshavin to make a bid for miss of the season from 10 yards. Most of the rest of the game was played on the edge of Hull's area, yet now Arsenal looked tired too, their passing laboured and the incisiveness gone. Hull were worth a point, but saw it taken away from them when Myhill could only parry Denilson's long shot, despite it coming straight at him, to allow Bendtner to steal in and seal what could be a significant win.

Sunday Independent

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