Arsenal held 1-1 by Wolves in Premier League

Arsenal’s flailing title hopes in the Premier League received a

setback when it was held 1-1 at home by struggling Wolverhampton

Wanderers on Tuesday, wasting a chance to move above London rival

Chelsea into fourth place.

With Robin van Persie – the league’s leading scorer with 16

goals – having a rare off-day, it was left to his strike partner

Gervinho to break the deadlock in the eighth minute for Arsenal at

Emirates Stadium.

However, the hosts couldn’t capitalize on their utter dominance

and after Steven Fletcher equalized against the run of play in the

38th with his seventh of the season, Wolves held out for the final

17 minutes with 10 men following the straight sending-off of Nenad

Milijas for a studs-first tackle.

Draws on Monday by leader Manchester City, Chelsea and

sixth-place Liverpool had left the door ajar for Arsenal to make up

some ground but Arsene Wenger’s side dropped points at home for

only the third time this campaign to stay fifth.

Arsenal is a point behind Chelsea and 12 behind the top two,

Manchester clubs City and United, after 18 games.

”There’s going to be a lot of twists and turns but

unfortunately we couldn’t take advantage today. That’s the

frustrating thing,” Wenger said. ”You have to take these

chances.”

Wolves will thank Wayne Hennessey for preserving a point after

the goalkeeper denied Van Persie several times. The Netherlands

striker needs two goals to equal the Premier League record of 36 in

a calendar year, set by Alan Shearer in 1995, but has just one

match left – at home to Queens Park Rangers on Saturday – to

achieve that.

”It was the kind of game that if you played 20 times, you win

19 of them. Unfortunately this was the one time we didn’t win,”

Wenger said. ”Their keeper played the game of his life.”

Van Persie has struck up a good partnership with Theo Walcott

but the England winger missed the game with a stomach bug and

Arsenal missed his pace out wide.

The midfield wasn’t short of creativity, though, and playmakers

Tomas Rosicky and Yossi Benayoun combined superbly on a

counterattack for the first goal.

Benayoun, making his first league start for Arsenal since his

loan move from Chelsea in August, was found by Rosicky in space and

the Israel captain threaded in a through-ball for Ivory Coast

forward Gervinho, who rounded Hennessey to slot in his fourth goal

of the campaign.

Matt Jarvis was Wolves’ best outlet on the left wing but the

visitors were being pinned back, meaning their goal came out of

nowhere. Stephen Hunt’s shot from the edge of the area deflected

into the path of the Fletcher and the Scottish forward stooped to

direct a header into the bottom corner from eight yards

(meters).

With Wolves flooding the midfield with hard workers, Arsenal was

being stifled and frustrated, even more so when Hennessey tipped

over a curling free kick from Van Persie in the 65th, the first

chance of many Arsenal in the closing stages.

Milijas’ red card, for a lunge on Mikel Arteta, increased the

pressure on Wolves although the 73rd-minute decision seemed harsh,

with the Serbia midfielder’s foot remaining on the ground during

the challenge.

”If (the referee) sees it again, it can’t be a sending-off,”

Wolves manager Mick McCarthy said.

Van Persie, the league’s in-form striker this season, squandered

a one-on-one chance when played through by Rosicky moments

later.

The Dutchman was then twice denied by Hennessey and Per

Mertesacker had a header saved as the visitors just held on for

only their fifth away point of the season.

”It was the kind of day where we were not relaxed enough in

front of goal. We wanted the win too much,” Wenger said.