LONDON: Arsenal rounded off a successful week by returning to the top of the English Premier League after Dennis Bergkamp’s first-half goal proved enough to beat Blackburn on Sunday.
The 1-0 win at Highbury lifted Arsene Wenger’s side a point clear of champions Manchester United and two ahead of Chelsea who slumped to a shock 2-1 home defeat to gutsy Bolton on Saturday.
Arsenal’s victory came four days after they beat Lokomotiv Moscow to reach the last 16 of the Champions League.
They could have added to their lead by half-time when Robert Pires hit a post but they eventually needed a series of saves from goalkeeper Jens Lehmann to preserve their advantage.
Markus Babbel had the ball in the net for Blackburn after the break but his effort was controversially disallowed by referee Andy D’Urso after the German was deemed to have climbed on Kolo Toure.
Blackburn boss Graeme Souness said Arsenal had reaped the benefit of home advantage.
“I can see how it has been disallowed but it’s a question of how you see it,” Souness said. “If that had been at the North Bank, Stretford End or Kop for the home side, it might have stood. Markus got up early and he had his arm over Toure’s shoulder but then he is 1.95m tall.”
Wenger was more than content with their showing in defence.
“We gave an outstanding defensive performance and after dropping two points against both Fulham and Leicester, it was important not to have a third dip,” he said.
At the other end of the table on Sunday, struggling Leeds threw away a two-goal lead before beating Fulham 3-2 to make it seven priceless points from their last three matches.
Leeds showed again that caretaker manager Eddie Gray has introduced a team spirit lacking under Peter Reid and with a consortium believed to be about to take over at Elland Road things are looking up.
Gray said: “Every player on the park worked hard and that’s important for us in the situation we are in.
“There is a bit of confidence back in the side and that’s important. It gives everybody a boost, we are just delighted that we’ve picked the three points up today which closes the gap on the rest of the teams and gives the boys something to go for.”
Goals either side of half-time from Michael Duberry and Australia’s Mark Viduka looked to have left Leeds well on the way to only their fourth league win of the season.
But high-flying Fulham hit back through two goals from French striker Louis Saha, the second coming in the 86th minute.
Leeds then grabbed a dramatic winner with two minutes remaining when their captain Dominic Matteo scored with a header.
Leeds are still second from bottom in the table but just a point away from Leicester who are currently outside the relegation zone on goal difference alone. Fulham remained fourth.
Juan-Pablo Angel scored twice – his first Premier League goals since October – to inspire Aston Villa to a crucial 3-2 victory over bottom club Wolves. Villa coach David O’Leary was left underwhelmed.
“We got the three points which is the key thing. But other than that there was a lot to be desired about parts of our performance,” he said. – AFP