Monday, September 22, 2008

Gunners go top as Liverpool's title hopes compromised

LONDON: Arsenal surged to the top of the English Premier League for the first time this season after coming from behind to beat Bolton 3-1 on Saturday.

Goals from Emmanuel Eboue, Nicklas Bendtner and Denilson sent the Gunners clear on a day when Liverpool's title credentials were dented by their goalless draw against newly-promoted Stoke at Anfield.

Chelsea can reclaim top spot with victory over champions Manchester United on Sunday.

Bolton got off to a good start when Kevin Davies headed into the lead, but Arsenal responded with a period of sustained pressure that produced goals for Eboue and Bendtner in quick succession and Brazilian midfielder Denilson's late strike wrapped things up at the Reebok Stadium.

Liverpool had started the day level with Chelsea on points and thought it was on its way to victory when Steven Gerrard fired in a 23m free-kick after only two minutes.

But the strike was controversially disallowed for offside and Stoke, thanks to an inspired display by goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen, were not breached again.

It was the first time Liverpool had failed to win in 11 league matches at Anfield and manager Rafael Benitez was left fuming over what he described as an "unbelievable" decision by referee Andre Marriner.

"If we had scored the first goal, the game would have been completely different, very open," said the Spaniard. "But the referee disallowed it and nobody can explain why. In his position it is impossible to have a good view. It is very, very strange."

Elsewhere, Fulham's strong start to the season was checked by a 1-0 defeat at Blackburn that handed new manager Paul Ince victory over his Fulham counterpart Roy Hodgson, who once managed the former England midfielder at Inter Milan.

There was no such relief for managerless and up-for-sale Newcastle, which dropped to second-from-bottom of the table after a 3-1 defeat at West Ham.

Italian striker David Di Michele helped ensure his compatriot Gianfranco Zola's reign as West Ham manager got off to a flying start.

Di Michele, who was making his first start for the Hammers, scored twice before the break to put his new club in charge.

Matt Etherington then bundled in Di Michele's mishit shot eight minutes after the break before Michael Owen netted a consolation effort for the Magpies.

The display earned former Chelsea favorite Zola a rapturous reception from the Hammers fans, which he admitted had touched him.

"It means a lot to me and also to the players," he said. "They worked very hard and well this week so when you get the results it is a great satisfaction."

Michael Chopra put his personal troubles to one side by scoring both goals in Sunderland's 2-0 lunchtime win over local rivals Middlesbrough, which lifted Roy Keane's side into the top half of the table.

Source: China Daily/Agencies

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