Van Persie keeps Arsenal firmly in title race
Robin Van Persie struck twice as Arsenal moved within four points of Premier League leaders Manchester United following a comfortable 2-0 home victory over Wolves on Saturday.sports Updated: Feb 12, 2011 22:49 IST
Robin Van Persie struck twice as Arsenal moved within four points of Premier League leaders Manchester United following a comfortable 2-0 home victory over Wolves on Saturday.
United's win in the Manchester derby earlier in the day meant Arsene Wenger's side kicked off seven points adrift.
But the second-placed Gunners were never in danger of failing to reduce the deficit, completing a routine win that left Wolves bottom of the table.
Wenger had urged his side to ignore Wednesday's Champions League clash with Barcelona. But having successfully recovered their league form following last weekend's morale-sapping collapse at Newcastle, they can look forward to the visit of the Catalans with renewed confidence.
The news that United had won will have filtered through to the home dressing room around 15 minutes before kick-off but if it had any effect, it served only to increase Arsenal's motivation.
The Gunners quickly assumed control over a Wolves side locked in a desperate battle for Premier League survival.
And any concerns Arsenal would suffer a hangover from events at Newcastle disappeared when Van Persie volleyed them into a 16th minute lead.
Wenger admitted he had welcomed the international break that allowed his shell-shocked players time away after conceding a four-goal lead in a 4-4 draw seven days previously.
Jack Wilshere, fresh from an impressive full international debut for England in Denmark midweek, made the first meaningful foray with the midfielder's surging run halted by a foul on the edge of the box.
Van Persie was unable to make the subsequent free kick count but he was far more precise when connecting with Cesc Fabregas's low cross in the 16th minute.
Fabregas, who awoke to reports he is a 54 million pound (70 million dollars) target of Real Madrid, picked out Van Persie and the Holland international struck an acrobatic first time volley past Wolves keeper Wayne Hennessey.
The quality of the strike matched the quality of Arsenal's early play and the home side should have gone on to build a commanding first half lead.
Four minutes after Van Persie's effort Andrei Arshavin missed a gilt-edged chance at the far post when he sliced a volley wide of an open goal from six yards out.
And when Arsenal did manage to direct their efforts on target, Hennessey was in outstanding form, producing a stunning one-handed save to deny Theo Walcott before his centre back Richard Stearman cleared Fabregas's follow-up shot off the line.
Wolves offered little by way of reply although they did have a good shout for a penalty when Adam Hammill went down under a clumsy challenge from Johan Djourou.
Mick McCarthy's side, who ended United's long unbeaten run last weekend, had done well to remain in the game going into the second half.
But their hopes should have been snuffed out immediately after the restart when Walcott missed a glaring opportunity.
The chance arose after another mazy run forward from Wilshere who opted to square the ball to his England colleague instead of shooting himself and Walcott fired wide from close range.
The winger made amends shortly afterwards, however, when he broke from halfway and picked out Van Persie, who drilled home his 56th minute second from the edge of the box.
Finally Wenger's side were entitled to think of Barcelona and they eased up in the final half hour while denying Wolves a clear sight of goal.