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Page last updated at 16:56 GMT, Saturday, 6 December 2008

Arsenal 1-0 Wigan

By Ian Hughes

Emmanuel Adebayor
Adebayor salutes after scoring what proved to be the winner

Emmanuel Adebayor's first-half strike handed a below-par Arsenal victory, ending Wigan's five-game unbeaten run.

Wigan came close to opening the scoring when Wilson Palacios' deflected shot was smartly saved by Manuel Almunia.

Instead, Adebayor broke the deadlock when he slotted home a low effort after collecting a pass from Cesc Fabregas.

Adebayor almost doubled the lead but Chris Kirkland tipped his shot onto the post and Denilson also saw his drive cannon back off the woodwork.

The two sides met in the Carling Cup last month, when Arsenal's youngsters ran out 3-0 winners against a near full-strength Wigan team.

But Arsenal's seniors struggled to find anything like the fluency of their apprentices, while the visitors might feel that they were a little unlucky to come away with nothing.

Wenger pleased with Arsenal focus

Wigan enjoyed early success with a robust and disciplined approach - although Palacios took things too far when he challenged Samir Nasri from behind and ended the Frenchman's match as a result.

Before that, Palacios might have put his side ahead when he struck a shot from the edge of the box but Almunia saved well.

Arsenal looked sluggish and were lacking fight but they went ahead when Fabregas' pass found its way through to Adebayor and he scored with a low shot to Kirkland's right.

Adebayor was inches away from doubling Arsenal's lead when his shot was helped onto the post by Kirkland.

It would have been harsh had Wigan gone into the break two goals down as they largely matched their hosts, particularly through the impressive Lee Cattermole.

But it was a different story after the interval, when Arsenal stepped up the pace and should have made the game safe.

Robin van Persie shot narrowly wide from the edge of the area and also went close with a free-kick, while Denilson cracked a 25-year shot against the foot of the post.

Full-back Bacary Sagna had two chances to get on the scoresheet but saw his near-post header saved and then shot over the bar after Wigan failed to clear a corner.

And Adebayor almost put the finishing touch to a flowing move but Kirkland did well to beat away his shot.

We deserved something - Bruce

Wigan, though, had chances to make Arsenal pay for their profligacy.

Mario Melchiot was denied by a point-blank save from Almunia, substitute Amr Zaki fired wide and Emile Heskey directed a free header over the bar as Wigan came forward with purpose.

Arsenal's nerves were obvious and they were hardly being helped by substitute Emmanuel Eboue.

So out of sorts was the midfielder that Arsene Wenger took him off before the end.

Yet the Gunners hung on to claim three points, while Wigan will know they should have taken advantage of their disjointed opponents.


Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger:
"It was a nervy game because we were 1-0 up but couldn't get the second goal. We played a bit with the handbrake on because we were so desperate to win it.

"But I must praise the team because they kept their focus and pushed it through.

"Eboue played for longer than I wanted him to. His concentration dropped a little bit and when the crowd got on his back that was difficult to see and accept.

"He has to come off as he had lost a lot of confidence - he would have been even more unhappy had he stayed on, given the ball away and cost us a goal."

Wigan manager Steve Bruce:
"I cannot really remember coming to a place like this and having so much of the game.

"We really took the game to Arsenal and the manner in which we did that absolutely delighted me.

"On another day we would have taken something from the game - and we deserved to.

"We just needed a bit of luck, and better delivery at times in the last third.

"I am disappointed for my players but they gave everything they've got. They came and gave Arsenal a hell of a game today. "


Arsenal: Almunia, Sagna, Toure, Djourou, Clichy, Denilson, Fabregas, Song Billong, Nasri (Eboue 32), Van Persie, Adebayor, Eboue (Silvestre 90).
Subs Not Used: Fabianski, Vela, Ramsey, Wilshere, Bendtner.

Booked: Van Persie.

Goals: Adebayor 16.

Wigan: Kirkland, Taylor, Boyce (Kilbane 63), Bramble, Figueroa, Valencia, Palacios, Cattermole (Koumas 77), Melchiot, Heskey, Camara (Zaki 66).
Subs Not Used: Kingson, Brown, De Ridder, Kapo.

Booked: Palacios, Figueroa.

Att: 59,317

Ref: Steve Bennett (Kent).


BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Arsenal's Cesc Fabregas 7.78 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.



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