Sunday, 1 May 2011

Arsenal 1 Manchester United 0

Arsenal blew the Premier League title race wide open as leaders Manchester United were deservedly beaten at the Emirates Stadium.Aaron Ramsey's winner early in the second half condemned United to defeat and leaves them only three points ahead of Chelsea with identical goal difference - and a meeting between the two to come at Old Trafford next Sunday.Forced to rebuild his promising career after suffering a broken leg, Ramsey made the most of a chance to deputise for injured captain Cesc Fabregas with a goal that will have been met with almost as much joy at Stamford Bridge as it was in front of Arsenal's fans.
Victory was well-earned reward for their superiority against a United side that never looked like repeating the heroics of their Champions League semi-final first leg victory against Schalke 04 on Tuesday in Germany.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger must have thought the fates had conspired against him when they were denied a clear first-half penalty after Nemanja Vidic handled Theo Walcott's cross.
But the game concluded with United manager Sir Alex Ferguson angry at referee Chris Foy after substitute Michael Owen was hauled down in the area by Gael Clichy in the closing moments, only to have his appeals ignored.It is a win that has probably come too late to revive Arsenal's own title aspirations, but one which gives Chelsea real hope that they can retain their crown if they can beat United next week.
Ferguson cut a frustrated figure throughout, a mood matched by his players as they rarely got to grips with an Arsenal side they have enjoyed so much success against in the recent past.
Arsenal lost Fabregas to a thigh injury sustained in training on Saturday - but his absence did not stop the Gunners dominating a first half that concluded with them nursing an acute sense of injustice.
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Vidic, a central figure in every sense, was fortunate not to be punished for an uncharacteristic error after only three minutes.In attempting to clear, he only succeeded in finding Jack Wilshere and was relieved to see the teenager pull his effort inches wide.
And Walcott could not keep a close-range shot under control as he stretched to meet Clichy's cross, sending it well over the top of Edwin van der Sar's crossbar.
United have had joy against Arsenal in the past by lying deep before striking with devastating effect on the counter attack.
And they almost delivered a sucker punch in the face of Arsenal's early superiority when Fabio da Silva burst into the area unmarked, but was unable to find Javier Hernandez.

Arsenal, with justification, were furious just after the half-hour when Vidic clearly used his hand to direct Walcott's cross away from the incoming Robin van Persie - an offence missed by the officials.
England striker Wayne Rooney's main contribution had been a yellow card for fouling England team-mate Wilshere just before the interval.He did show his enduring quality with a curling 25-yard free-kick after 48 minutes, but the previously unemployed Wojciech Szczesny was equal to the task with a diving save.Arsenal finally got the goal they had merited after 56 minutes, Ramsey sliding a low finish into the corner of the net from Van Persie's incisive cut-back.United, thoroughly out of sorts, replaced Anderson with Antonio Valencia moments before the goal.They did muster a response, however, when Vidic rose highest from a corner to head just wide.And in a belated show of urgency by United, Szczesny was then forced to save well from Nani after Rooney had driven deep into the Arsenal half in a bid to lift his team-mates from their slumbers.With three minutes left Ferguson and United's players were reduced to a fury as Owen was brought down from behind by Clichy as he raced into the area.Referee Foy, much to Ferguson's obvious disgust, was unimpressed.It was Arsenal's last anxious moment before closing out a win that leaves the title potentially on the line when United confront champions Chelsea, who narrowly beat Tottenham 2-1 on Saturday.

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