Arsenal brush aside doomed Wolves
Arsenal defeated Wolves 3-0, stretching their lead over Tottenham Hotspur to five points
Arsenal tightened their grip on third place in the Premier League with a comprehensive 3-0 defeat of Wolves at Molineux.
Yossi Benayoun’s strike from the edge of the area came after a Robin van Persie penalty and neat move finished by Theo Walcott early on gave the Gunners a two-goal lead at half time.
Sebastien Bassong saw red on a miserable night for Wolves that all but confirmed their relegation from the top flight.
Arsene Wenger made three changes to the side from Sunday’s win over Manchester City at Emirates Stadium, two from necessity and one unforced change.
Brazilian left-back Andre Santos came in for Kieran Gibbs who was feeling a groin, Johan Djourou went into the centre of defence for the suspended Laurent Koscielny and Aaron Ramsey started in place of the rested Tomas Rosicky.
Wolves are desperate for every point they can get, but their evening appeared doomed after only six minutes when Walcott played a neat one-two with Robin van Persie just outside the Wolves area and was bundled over from behind when bearing down on goal by Sebastien Bassong.
The defender on loan from Tottenham would have hoped before the game that he could do his parent club a favour but all did was receive a straight red card and walk to the dressing room as Van Persie cheekily dinked the penalty home.
Caretaker boss Terry Connor immediately sought to limited the damage after the disastrous start, but there were cries of ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’ from the Wolves fans as midfielder David Davis was replaced with defender Christophe Berra.
It didn’t make much of a difference as Arsenal doubled their lead just four minutes after the first goal.
Walcott was booed throughout the first half by the home crowd after the penalty because they believed he had gone down a little too easily, but they may think differently after seeing the replays at home.
The England winger did not seem troubled as he and his captain played another one-two to cut open the Wolves defence before slotting home at the near post.
It was a fine move and an adept finish by a man who seems to be overcoming some of the demons that had plagued him earlier in the season.
It was a hammer blow to Conner’s relegation threatened side and the shock was palpable in the players as they chased Arsene Wenger’s team, who were happy to pass the half out.
Though there was time for Berra to close with a header form a corner and Kevin Doyle to be booked amongst ironic cries of ‘ole’ when the men in orange managed to string together a rare series of passes.
The Gunners started sloppily after the break and allowed the home side to get amongst them but they should have been further ahead when Ramsey was sent clear five minutes in but hesitated and his attempt was blocked.
Five minutes later it was Van Persie who was missing a chance; flashing wide at the near post.
The north Londoners were being complacent and were nearly punished on the hour after intricate play from Michael Kightly on the edge of the area found Matt Jarvis in space on the left and his cross was met at the back post by Doyle, only for Wojciech Szczesny to make a terrific save.
It was an excellent reaction by the Polish ‘keeper on the first real occasion he was called upon and preceded a good spell for Wolves, who were full of energy and pressuring the Arsenal players into mistakes.
The story of Wolves’ last two seasons has been their inability to capitalise when they are playing well and they were punished again after 69 minutes when substitute Nenad Milijas won possession on the edge of the area but dawdled on it.
Van Persie dispossessed him before releasing Alex Song in the left channel; the Cameroon international pulled it back to Yossi Benayoun on the edge of the box to duly slam home inside Wayne Hennessy’s near post.
The third goal put an end to Wolves’ mini-revival and Arsenal’s possession game was resumed but Ramsey missed another chance when Van Persie pulled the ball back but the Welshman’s shot was a tight angle and Hennessey closed him down well.
The home side forced another good save out of Szczesny in the final minute of injury time when Fletcher pulled back for Milijas to shoot, but it was too little too late.
A seventh straight defeat for Wolves saw them cut six points adrift at the bottom of the Premier League, while Wenger’s side got their ninth win in the last ten games.
It meant the Gunners strengthened their hold on third place and went five points ahead of rivals Spurs.