Sunday 18 March 2018

Bendtner's knockout blow rubs fresh salt into Hull wounds

Hull City 1
Arsenal 2

Gary Jacob

AT the end of a week in which his players publicly traded blows, Phil Brown pulled no punches with his view that some inside Hull City need to maintain perspective.

Saturday's defeat felt all the more painful because the knockout blow was delivered when Hull's guard had slipped for a split second late on. It seems that Arsenal not only want Manchester United's Premier League trophy, but also their reputation for plundering late winners.

Arsene Wenger's side have turned one point into three in stoppage-time twice in as many weeks and have scored more league goals in the closing 10 minutes than any other team this season, indicating a new strength and perseverance.

In truth, this win was fortunate, the kind needed by champions. "It strengthens our belief but we have not won anything yet and until we do, it will play on your mind," the Arsenal manager said.

The Frenchman excused his players' performance on the basis of tiredness, but their failure to capitalise on an early goal by Andrey Arshavin and kill off their opponents, who were later reduced to 10 men, is a weakness which has blighted his Arsenal sides.

Equally guilty of rarely possessing a Plan B, this team cannot counter-attack at the same speed as the team that lifted the title six years ago. Perhaps their reluctance to shoot from distance will change after Denilson's long-range drive led to a poor parry by Boaz Myhill that allowed Nicklas Bendtner to side-foot the ball in.

Like Bendtner or loathe him, and there are few Arsenal fans who sit on the fence in this regard, no one could accuse him of not influencing Arsenal's campaign. His three goals in the past four league games have helped to keep his team in the title race.

Both of George Boateng's bookings in the space of five minutes could have been straight red cards.

The midfield player caused a fracas just hours after saying that he would have paid to watch Nick Barmby and Jimmy Bullard square up by the Humber Bridge. Boateng shoved his hand into Bendtner's face and then his studs into Bacary Sagna's right knee.

His dismissal almost went unnoticed as Hull defended regimentally and profited from targeting Sol Campbell with balls over the top. Wenger conceded that his 35-year-old defender struggles with playing more than once each week.

Hull felt that Campbell should have been dismissed for bringing down Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, who was allowed to advance on goal despite being in an offside position when receiving a flicked ball from Dean Marney.

Bullard converted the penalty, but Brown may rue trying to protect the result by substituting his forwards, inviting pressure with no attacking outlet. (© The Times, London)

Irish Independent

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