Boss Wenger believes his team can retain title

LONDON: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger maintained his belief that the Gunners can retain the Premiership title after a convincing 1-0 victory against Newcastle United at Highbury on Sunday. 

Dennis Bergkamp's first half strike, his first Premiership goal since August, was enough to extend Arsenals unbeaten home record to 32 matches and reduce the arrears behind leaders Chelsea to 10 points. 

It could have been a far more convincing victory had Shay Given not been in inspired form, the Newcastle goalkeeper the difference between Arsenal and a cricket score, particularly in Sunday's second half. 

“The team is back on track,” said Wenger, whose side leapfrogged Manchester United by a point to regain second place in a win that came just a week after the champions' 1-0 defeat away to Bolton. 

Many observers believe Arsenal's London rivals now have an unbeatable lead but Wenger said: “We take the position of Chelsea as a challenge. The best team is always the one in front but I am sure we can be there again.  

“They are in a very strong position but we want to keep pushing them. 

“It was important to win after the defeat against Bolton. The fact is that we have a great spirit, great unity and are not afraid to play football and when you play quality football, you always have a chance to win games.” 

Wenger singled out 34-year-old Dutch veteran Bergkamp, saying the striker was still capable of dictating games with his mercurial talent. 

“The fact that Dennis has scored was important,” Wenger added. “When you dont score, your confidence goes a bit and maybe physically he is not like he was when he was 27 or 28,” the French boss explained. 

“But he has super class, the science of knowing where you have to stand on the pitch and when he has the ball he knows what to do with it.” 

The Gunners were well aware that anything less than a victory would have effectively ended the defence of their title. 

They could have been ahead as early as the first minute when Mathieu Flaminis shot was cleared off the line by Titus Bramble after superb build-up play involving Ashley Cole and Robert Pires. 

Bergkamp's 19th minute goal, a sublime finish after good work by Flamini, should have been the first of many, with Thierry Henry and Pires going close to extending Arsenal's lead. 

Henry forced Given into a fine save before Pires fired fractionally wide from 30 metres and as the game wore on, Arsenal continued to strengthen their grip.  

The France striker was again denied by Republic of Ireland international Given after being played in by Patrick Vieira, his shot deflecting onto the post before dropping back into the goalkeeper's hands. 

Meanwhile Pires and Cole missed close-range efforts which they really should have converted. 

Pires sliced wide when unmarked from a Jose Antonio Reyes's cross and Cole somehow scooped an effort wide from Henry's pass. 

Henry forced another fine save from Given after clever interplay with Pires but all Arsenal's endeavour was almost wasted when Lee Bowyer fluffed a fine chance to level 15 minutes from time, much-maligned Gunners keeper Manual Almunia doing well to block the midfielders powerful effort. 

“We rode our luck against an excellent Arsenal team,” said Newcastle manager Graeme Souness, who confirmed he had dropped forward Craig Bellamy after the forward had refused to play out of position, an allegation the Welshman later denied. 

“At 1-0 we felt we still had a chance but we didnt take it when it came and we can have no complaints about the result,” added Souness, whose team were left 12th in the table following this defeat. 

“Arsenal are still very much in the hunt and you would be a fool to write them off.” – AFP 

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