Gunners denied by 10-man Latics

Arsenal let 10-man Wigan off the hook as a late own-goal prevented them earning all three points in a 2-2 draw at the DW Stadium on Wednesday.

Last Updated: 29/12/10 at 22:16 Post Comment

Squillaci: Heads into his own net

Squillaci: Heads into his own net

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It was not the disaster of last season, when Arsenal collapsed from 2-0 up to lose 3-2, but manager Arsene Wenger - who had gambled on eight changes from the side which beat Chelsea - will feel easy points were dropped in the tightest of title races.

The Gunners led 2-1, with Charles N'Zogbia having been sent off for Wigan, only for the home side to level thanks to an own goal from Sebastian Squillaci.

Ben Watson's penalty had given the home side a deserved lead, but Arsenal replied to take the lead at the break through Andrei Arshavin's brilliant scissor-kick and Nicklas Bendtner's calm finish.

Perhaps Wenger's changes heartened Wigan because they started off in spirited fashion and had the Gunners rocking on their heels.

Much of Arsenal's early struggles were self-inflicted. Squillaci gave up a contest with Hugo Rodallega claiming he had been fouled and fellow centre-back Laurent Koscielny had to rescue him with a perfectly-timed challenge in the box.

Then Bendtner's appallingly loose pass was seized upon by N'Zogbia, who rattled in a low shot which was comfortable for Lukasz Fabianksi.

Tomas Rosicky, Arsenal's captain on the night, finally managed to bring some composure to the visitors and his vision set Arshavin free only for the Russian to fire over the bar.

Bendtner earned a free-kick on the edge of the Wigan box and took it himself, only to see it deflected off the wall and past the post with Ali Al Habsi flatfooted.

In the 17th minute Wigan broke swiftly and N'Zogbia burst down the right before tumbled over Koscielny's trailing leg just on the edge of the box.

A penalty looked the right decision and Watson hammered it home to give the home side a deserved lead.

Arsenal were a whisker away from an equaliser when Rosicky's shot was parried by Al Habsi and Koscielny looked favourite to slot home, only for Gary Caldwell to dive in bravely to thwart the Frenchman.

Before the half-hour was out, Wenger was forced to make a change with Jack Wilshere coming on for Abou Diaby, who had picked up an injury, and his arrival seemed to settle Arsenal down.

Arshavin had been at his frustrating worst for most of the half but it was down to his brilliant volley that Arsenal equalised six minutes before the break.

Marouane Chamakh had lobbed the ball on for Bendtner to hit a shot on the bounce and when Al Habsi managed to keep it out, it dropped for Arshavin to strike a lovely scissor-kick back past the Wigan goalkeeper.

The goal seemed to breathe life into Arsenal and particularly Arshavin, who created a goal for Bendtner in the 43rd minute.

Arshavin tussled for and won possession in the centre circle, then bustled forward and found Bendtner, who used his strength to brush off a couple of weak challenges and then make no mistake from 12 yards out.

Wilshere's anchoring abilities made Arsenal appear more resilient generally and Antolin Alcaraz breathed a sigh of relief after heading just wide of his own net.

From the resulting corner an unmarked Chamakh sent his header into almost exactly the same spot when he should really have hit the target.

Although Arsenal's grip on the game had tightened, Wigan still looked capable of causing problems and Tom Cleverley was not a million miles away from finding the top corner after the usually-dependable Bacary Sagna had slipped.

The Gunners' passing game had been slowly reasserting itself and it clicked into gear perfectly in the 70th minute with a mouthwatering move that simply begged to be finished off, but Al Habsi stood tall to deny Arshavin.

N'Zogbia had looked Wigan's most potent threat all night and with 15 minutes left Arsenal were grateful to Fabianski for a one-on-one save.

Having played so well, N'Zogbia then got himself sent off for pushing his head into Wilshere's face after an exchange of words, leaving referee Lee Probert little option but to show red.

Far from being disheartened, the dismissal fired up the home side and with 10 minutes left they equalised.

Rodallega headed back a corner at the far post and Squillaci, trying to thwart Caldwell, could only head into his own net.

Wenger had to go for broke and did, bringing on Theo Walcott and Samir Nasri.

There was one escape for Wigan when James McArthur deflected Nasri's free-kick with his hands, and once more the Gunners left the DW Stadium frustrated.

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