Arsenal’s title hopes fade with 2-1 loss at Bolton

Arsenal’s slim hopes of winning the Premier League were

virtually extinguished on Sunday, conceding a last-minute goal by

Bolton substitute Tamir Cohen to lose 2-1 at the Reebok

Stadium.

The Israel midfielder, who came on in the 85th minute, glanced

in a near-post header from a corner to leave third-place Arsenal

nine points adrift of league leader Manchester United with four

matches remaining.

”Of course the chances are very minimal now,” Arsenal manager

Arsene Wenger said of his team’s hopes of beating United or

second-place Chelsea in the title race.

Netherlands striker Robin van Persie, who scored in a seventh

straight away game in the Premier League, had brought the Gunners

back into the match in the 47th minute after Bolton’s prolific

forward Daniel Sturridge broke the deadlock from close range seven

minutes before halftime.

Bolton captain Kevin Davies had a penalty saved by Arsenal

goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny barely a minute before Van Persie

equalized.

Arsenal – without a trophy in six years – is now struggling to

finish second with in-form Chelsea three points clear. It was the

Gunners’ first defeat in 17 league games.

”It’s hard to lose a game like that. It’s hard to swallow but

we gave everything,” Wenger said. ”We had the chances to win

it.”

United plays Arsenal away on May 1 and then hosts reigning

champion Chelsea on May 8 in title-defining matches.

Cohen was brought to tears after scoring his winner, with the

player celebrating by lifting his jersey over his head to show a

picture of his late father Avi on a T-shirt. The former Liverpool

player died in hospital in December after being involved in a

motorbike accident.

”I was so happy to score this goal – it was a very emotional

moment for me,” said a sobbing Cohen.

The victory came a week after Bolton was thrashed 5-0 by Stoke

in an FA Cup semifinal at Wembley.

”After last week’s result, we wanted to come out and show we

had passion and prove that was just a one-off,” said Sturridge,

who scored his seventh goal since joining Bolton on loan from

Chelsea on Jan. 31.

The home side’s direct and physical approach unbalanced Arsenal

in the first half, with the opener by Sturridge not entirely

unexpected when it arrived.

Lee Chung-yong had already had a point-blank shot saved by

Szczesny and then squandered a two-on-one chance before providing

the corner that led to the goal.

Gary Cahill met it with a firm header that was cleared off the

line by France playmaker Samir Nasri but the ball rebounded out to

Sturridge, who headed in from two yards (meters).

Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas struck the post with a fierce

25-yard shot in the 43rd but his team was lucky not to fall further

behind a minute into the second half.

Center back Johan Djourou was adjudged to have fouled Sturridge,

although TV replays suggested the Bolton forward fell theatrically.

A slight sense of justice prevailed when Davies, who had scored his

five previous penalties this season, saw his weak attempt saved by

Szczesny.

Barely a minute later, the Gunners were level. Van Persie

created some space with some clever skill, exchanged a one-two with

Fabregas on the edge of the area before drilling a low drive into

the corner for his 17th goal in his last 17 games.

With Van Persie pulling the strings, Arsenal piled forward in

search of the winner but Bolton held firm.

The best chance fell to Nasri, who beat the offside trap and ran

onto a floated pass from Van Persie. The attacking midfielder’s

first shot was blocked by goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen before his

rebound was cleared off line by Cahill.

Johan Elmander then had a shot parried away by Szczesny before

Cohen’s winner.

Arsenal has won just one league game since being knocked out of

the Champions League and FA Cup in the space of five days at the

start of March.