Tomas Rosicky headed a winner five minutes from the end as Arsenal came from behind to beat Wigan 2-1 on Sunday to keep fourth place in the English Premiership.
Denny Landzaat’s goal in the 35th minute had threatened a major upset at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium. The Gunners, who were in danger of slipping to fifth, only drew level nine minutes from the end when Wigan defender Fitz Hall turned a cross from Mathieu Flamini into his own net.
Rosicky’s winner means that Arsenal now have 49 points, still 17 behind leaders Manchester United and still trying to catch Chelsea and Liverpool.
”I felt we deserved it because we did fight until the last second and have shown again fantastic fighting spirit and character,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. ”They [Wigan] could have won as well. They hit the post at 1-0 and it could have gone both ways.”
Wigan remain just outside the relegation zone, five points ahead of the three clubs most in danger of the drop — West Ham, Charlton and Watford. But Paul Jewell’s team went close to becoming the first visiting team to beat the Gunners at their new stadium.
Julius Aghahowa burst into the Arsenal area and pulled the ball back to Landzaat. The Dutch midfielder had plenty of time and space to fire a 25m shot high and powerfully past goalkeeper Jens Lehmann.
Emile Heskey should have made it 2-0 in the 51st when he got clear of the Arsenal defence, but lobbed the ball over the bar with Lehmann well off his line. Wigan manager Paul Jewell also said his team should have had a penalty when Flamini later leaned on Heskey who was heading for goal.
”We have been denied victory and some points by some bad decisions,” said Jewell. ”It could cost us Ã‚Â£50-million [through relegation].”
Wigan were down to 10 men with a player off the field getting treatment when Arsenal equalised. Flamini appeared to be offside when he collected a through ball from Emmanuel Adebayor and his cross was turned into his own net by Hall — under pressure from Thierry Henry lurking behind the Wigan defender and waiting for a tap-in.
Henry immediately ran over to Wigan goalkeeper Chris Kirkland, appearing to taunt him for time wasting during the build-up to the goal.
Two minutes later, Julio Baptista broke clear down the right from another pass by Adebayor and the Brazilian’s cross was met firmly by Rosicky’s header.
With Arsenal now leading, Lehmann was shown a yellow card for time wasting and, having been booked five times this season, is now suspended for the February 25 League Cup final against Chelsea.
”He wanted to show that we could also waste time and the referee didn’t like it,” Wenger said.
In Sunday’s other Premier League game, Gary Speed and Kevin Nolan scored a goal each to give Bolton a 2-1 victory over Fulham and keep the Wanderers on course for a place in European competition next season.
Zat Knight got one back for Fulham and Bolton needed a fingertip save from goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen in the third minute of injury team to ensure all three points.
Bolton went ahead in the 23rd minute at the Reebok Stadium after Michael Brown pushed Nicolas Anelka in the back as the French striker chased a cross from Nolan. Before Speed casually stroked in the penalty kick, Brown’s protest against the award earned him a yellow card, which means he misses the FA Cup fifth round game against former club Tottenham.
Bolton made it 2-0 in the 51st minute when Stelios Giannakopoulos headed a cross from Nicky Hunt against the post and Nolan was quick to react and stab home the rebound.
The hosts had a fright when Ricardo Gardner had to clear off the line from Heidar Helguson and Knight made it 2-1 in the 66th minute when he headed in Simon Davies’s corner.
Jaaskelainen rescued Wanderers in the third minute of injury time when he pushed a powerful header from substitute Tomasz Radzinski over the bar.
Manchester United stayed six points ahead of defending champions Chelsea after beating Charlton 2-0 on Saturday, when the Blues gained a 3-0 victory over Middlesbrough. With 11 games to go, United have 66 points and Chelsea have 60.
Also on Saturday, it was: Everton 1, Blackburn 0; Newcastle 2, Liverpool 1; Reading 2, Aston Villa 0; Sheffield United 2, Tottenham 1; West Ham 0, Watford 1; and Portsmouth 2, Manchester City 1. — Sapa-AP