Premier League: Arsenal leave it late to sink battling Cardiff as Solskjaer looks on
Last Updated: 02/01/14 12:27pm
Arsenal went back to the top of the Barclays Premier League as two late goals sank battling Cardiff City 2-0 at the Emirates.
Substitute Nicklas Bendtner scored in the 88th minute, hammering in from close range after David Marshall produced an amazing save from Bacary Sagna's header.
BEST OF THE MATCH
Man of the match - Jack Wilshere. The England midfielder was thrust into the playmaker role usually occupied by the injured Mesut Ozil and responded well to the challenge, creating Walcott's goal and being denied one himself by the upright. Chance of the match - Wilshere looked like he had given Arsenal the lead but his left-footed effort cannoned back off the post. Save of the match - David Marshall produced an outstanding effort to deny Bacary Sagna but unfortunately the rebound was not kind to the Cardiff keeper with Bendtner on hand to turn the ball in. Talking point - Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was in the crowd alongside Cardiff chairman Vincent Tan. Will he become Bluebirds boss later this week?
Then, as Bendtner limped off after picking up an injury in the process of scoring, Theo Walcott ran onto Jack Wilshere's neat flick to lift the ball over the advancing keeper to seal the three points.
Defeat was hard on Cardiff who turned in a battling performance in front of manager-in-waiting Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The former Manchester United striker sat alongside Bluebirds owner Vincent Tan to watch the visitors frustrate Arsenal for long periods.
Lacking the injured Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey, the Gunners struggled to find a way past the massed ranks of the visitors until their late rally.
The closest they came was a Wilshere shot which cannoned off the upright while they could have been left to rue two golden chances for Per Mertesacker who twice headed wide from just six yards.
Wilshere also had a strong appeal for a penalty rejected by referee John Moss after going down under a challenge from Gary Medel while, at the other end, Cardiff shouted for a spot-kick of their own as the ball appeared to strike Nacho Monreal's arm.
Solskjaer travelled to London on New Year's Day as talks stepped up over him replacing the sacked Malky Mackay, and the appointment could be confirmed on Thursday if negotiations between the Molde boss and Cardiff owner Tan progress well.
But Solskjaer will have his work cut out to keep his new club clear of the relegation battle following just one win in the last 10 Premier League games.
Arsenal, meanwhile, again answered their critics to dig deep and overcome their injury problems to leapfrog Manchester City back to the summit.
It was Walcott who provided the main outlet on a slick pitch as Arsenal aimed to play him away behind the Cardiff defence.
Wenger: We fought until the end
On 14 minutes, Wilshere whipped a low ball in from the left which Walcott was just unable to reach as he slid in at the far post and put his shot into the side-netting.
Arsenal slowly started to dominate possession, with Santi Cazorla firing wide from 20 yards after another positive break down the right.
The home fans in the Clock End were screaming for a penalty on 25 minutes when Medel looked to have tripped Wilshere and in a rare Cardiff attack, Jordon Mutch got away down the left and drilled in a low shot which Wojciech Szczesny kicked clear.
Clever play by Cazorla in the left side of Cardiff box saw the Spaniard pick out a ball back to Walcott, but his snapshot flew wide.
Another late loss for Cardiff
Cardiff felt they should have been given a penalty when a cross from Craig Noone came off Monreal's boot and up on to his arm, but the officials were having none of it.
Arsenal continued to press, but lacked a decisive pass in the final third. Wilshere collected the ball on the left before cutting back into the Cardiff penalty area and his fierce angled drive cannoned back off the outside of the near post.
On 65 minutes, Gunners boss Arsene Wenger made a double change as Tomas Rosicky and Bendtner replaced Mathieu Flamini and Lucas Podolski.
It remained one-way traffic heading into the final 15 minutes but the visitors' resistance was finally broken on 88 minutes. Monreal floated over a deep cross from the left, which Sagna headed goalwards and after Marshall made a fine reaction block, Bendtner was alert to stab the loose ball home.
Then in stoppage time, Walcott was sent clear by Wilshere and clipped the ball over Marshall to seal another hard-earned victory.
Barclays Premier League
Wed 1st Jan
Swansea2 - 3Man City
Arsenal2 - 0Cardiff
C Palace1 - 1Norwich
Fulham2 - 1West Ham
Liverpool2 - 0Hull City
Southampton0 - 3Chelsea
Stoke City1 - 1Everton
Sunderland0 - 1A Villa
West Brom1 - 0Newcastle
Man Utd1 - 2Tottenham
Barclays Premier League
|10||West Ham United||28||31|
|17||West Bromwich Albion||28||25|
Arsenal v Cardiff
Arsenal forward Theo Walcott insists he would welcome increased competition for first-team places.
Alan McInally says Arsenal played very well and subjected Cardiff to relentless pressure in their win at the Emirates.
Arsene Wenger was left to count the cost of Arsenal's win over Cardiff with Nicklas Bendtner set for a spell out.