Arsenal 1 Everton 0
Arsenal kept alive hopes of snatching runners-up spot in the Barclays Premier League from Chelsea with 1-0 win over Everton at Emirates Stadium.
After leaders Manchester United ended any slim mathematical title chances yesterday, a 14th home league win courtesy of Nicklas Bendtner’s second-half goal ensured an unbeaten campaign in Ashburton Grove.
It also means the Gunners could yet overhaul Avram Grant’s side – whom they now trail by just a point, albeit having played a game more.
Arsene Wenger’s men stayed for a lap of appreciation after the final whistle, which could have marked the last appearance for veteran goalkeeper Jens Lehmann, who is out of contract this summer and came off the bench in the second half.
However, having led the table themselves for so long earlier in the campaign and also reaching the last eight of the Champions League, those left inside Emirates Stadium could not help but reflect on what might have been.
It had been a bright start by the Gunners, with Theo Walcott looking lively down the left.
After five minutes, Kolo Toure’s cross from the right was just too high for Bendtner, as Tim Howard collected in the six-yard box.
Arsenal continued to look to move the ball around quickly, but Everton were allowing the hosts little space.
Walcott, in the 14th minute, exchanged passes with Bendtner on the edge of the penalty area and then tried to curl a shot into the far corner, but was off target.
Blues boss David Moyes was left fuming in the technical area when referee Alan Wiley decided Andrew Johnson had not been tripped by Arsenal captain William Gallas as the pair chased a ball into the corner.
Bendtner then picked out Gilberto with a diagonal pass into the left side of the Everton penalty area, but the Brazilian was stretching and could not guide his header on target.
Suddenly Johnson latched onto a ball over the top from Manuel Fernandes and was away into the right side of the Arsenal box.
Young Polish goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski stood up well to make the save with his legs, before Alex Song hooked the rebound from Steven Pienaar away.
Denilson was then on hand to clear a downward header from Joleon Lescott off the line at the right-hand post.
The Everton defender was then shown a yellow card for kicking the ball out of hands of the Arsenal keeper on 29 minutes, before the Gunners had a chance at the other end.
Leading scorer Emmanuel Adebayor was played into the Everton penalty area, but, guarded by a couple of defenders, his low show shot was saved by Howard.
Emmanuel Eboue’s shot across goal was blocked as Arsenal continued to press.
Arsenal finished the first half strongly.
Denilson’s deep cross picked out Gilberto at the back of the area, but his header flew over.
In stoppage-time, Eboue sent over a curling centre from the right, which was just ahead of Adebayor, who glanced the ball wide.
The hosts also made good progress at the start of the second half as Everton struggled to get out of their own area.
However, despite their dominance, the home side again failed to find a decisive pass to open up the defence which allowed the visitors to regroup.
There was a warning at the other end, after 58 minutes, when Lescott made space for himself on the right and sent over a low cross which flew through the Arsenal six-yard box.
Leon Osman had a 20-yard effort blocked by Gallas during what was a good spell for Everton.
Arsenal made a double change with 22 minutes left, as Armand Traore replaced Toure and veteran goalkeeper Lehmann – signed from Borussia Dortmund in July 2003 and out of contract this summer – was given his chance to say goodbye to the Arsenal fans who gave he 38-year-old German a rousing reception.
The home side went in search of a winner and took a deserved lead through a powerful header from Bendtner on 77 minutes following a fine left-wing cross by Traore.
Everton sent on Yakubu Ayegbeni, for Carsley, and Victor Anichebe replaced Johnson for the final nine minutes.
Arsenal pressed for a second, but failed to make the most of