Arsenal 3 Blues 1 ..

Last updated : 08 January 2010 By Footymad Previewer

The Gunners are now within three points of Chelsea and enjoy a game in hand over their London rivals and have a superior goal difference.

It was a difficult match for Arsene Wenger's side who looked jaded as so many players had been away on international duty.

The Gunners should have taken the lead on five minutes when a long-range effort was half-saved by Joe Hart but fell into the path of Tomas Rosicky who had time to compose himself but instead tried to shoot first time and mis-hit his effort wide.

Rosicky could have scored again five minutes later when the ball was nodded back into his path by Robin van Persie, but the Czech Republic international again failed to connect cleanly.

Theo Walcott forced a spectacular save out of Hart on 11 minutes. Having been off the pitch receiving treatment after Liam Ridgewell followed through on a tackle against him, the England attacker flew down the right flank before firing a dipping shot that the Blues keeper got his finger tips to turn over the bar.

Van Persie gave the Gunners the lead in the 16th minute in his own inimitable way. Alex Song picked up the ball midway inside the Blues half and spotted the Dutch striker's run on the left side of the area.

Song threaded a ball into his path which van Persie controlled on the turn with his right foot before smashing a low left-foot drive across goal and into the bottom right corner beyond Hart's dive.

Abou Diaby made it 2-0 two minutes later with a move that began with Emmanuel Eboue bursting down the right flank. The Ivorian slipped in Rosicky on the right side of the area and he sent in a low cross towards Walcott who failed to connect with his outstretched boot.

Fortunately, running in behind him was Diaby who hammered the ball into the roof of the net with his left foot from ten yards out.

Blues forced Vito Mannone into action for the first time in the 30th minute when he palmed away a 30-yard free-kick from former Gunner Sebastian Larsson.

Lee Bowyer reduced the arrears for Blues in the 38th minute when Barry Ferguson's cross from the left was not properly dealt with by Mannone who spilled the ball to Bowyer and he fired the ball into the roof of the Arsenal net.

Andrey Arshavin, on for the injured Walcott, tested Hart again with a fierce low drive that the young keeper got down well to.

The Gunners should really have gone 3-1 up on 52 minutes when Arshavin received a ball from Diaby in front of the Blues goal. The Russian needed only to find the target from three yards out but sliced wide instead.

Van Persie hit the bar in the 59th minute when the Gunners were awarded a questionable free-kick after Larsson's interception was judged to have been a back-pass.

Blues continued to work hard and made Arsenal look average for long periods of the game. They were close to equalising in the 79th minute but Mannone just managed to intercept a ball into the area which was eventually cleared away with two Blues players ready to pounce.

The visitors sensed that there was a point in it for them and Kevin Philips was sent on to bolster the attack. As Blues pressed forward for the equaliser they were left open to the counter-attack though.

That's how Arsenal's third goal came about. Mannone gathered the ball as one such Blues attack crumbled. He rolled the ball to Fabregas who drove forward.

It was four against four, but all he needed was a short ball to Arshavin to his left. The Russian shifted the ball inside and then picked his spot to curl a low shot beyond Hart into the right corner of the net.

Hart denied Arsenal a fourth with a point-blank save from Diaby and again moments later from van Persie. The points were secure however and Arsenal's charge for the title significantly boosted.