LONDON: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said his players showed great spirit to survive a late scare in their 3-2 home win over Chelsea on Wednesday, a result that left their London rivals eight points adrift in third place.
“We needed to dig deep and show fantastic spirit and togetherness,” Wenger told Sky Sports TV. “We finished very tired but the spirit got us through.
“At 3-0 we relaxed a little bit and we got quickly punished. It became very, very dangerous in the end.
“I would take a positive lesson from this game. This team have shown they are not only fantastic players but are also great spirit-wise.”
Arsenal’s nearest challengers are now Manchester United, who came from behind to beat Sunderland 2-1.
“It was perseverance and determination. It was reminiscent of many games we have won over the years,” manager Alex Ferguson told Sky.
“We never gave in and the late goals showed the resolve of the team. I thought we deserved it and did very well.
“It was a significant result in that with 12 minutes to go we were 1-0 down. I think we are going to be challenging, we are in a good position. If we keep everyone fit, I think we have a chance.”
England captain David Beckham, who scored the 81st minute equaliser, said: “It is nice to get the new year off to a good start and hopefully we can take it on from here and carry on.”
Sunderland manager Howard Wilkinson said: “I felt once again we battled well and kept our discipline for most of the game.
“But with Manchester United throwing caution to the wind and with the good players they have got, you are going to expect pressure”.
Gordon Strachan was also smiling after his Southampton team beat Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 to extend their unbeaten run to eight and move provisionally to sixth place.
“There were giants out there, we had to stand up against their strength,” Strachan said. –
“There wasn’t much great football but there was a lot of bravery and great character out there.”