Bendtner rues another missed opportunity for Arsenal
By David Ornstein
BBC Sport at the Emirates Stadium
Arsenal missed the chance to close the gap on Premier League leaders Manchester United to one point after being held to a goalless draw by resilient Sunderland at the Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners knew that with United away to Liverpool on Sunday they could take a potentially significant stride towards a first top-flight title since 2004.
Instead, they will be frustrated that they stand three points behind their rivals after being denied victory by a mixture of questionable refereeing decisions and poor finishing.
Andrey Arshavin was involved in the two key incidents in the game. The Russian had a goal incorrectly disallowed for offside and was denied a penalty when Titus Bramble appeared to push the forward as he was about to shoot.
Arsenal also missed chances as Samir Nasri had his free-kick parried by Sunderland goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, Marouane Chamakh was thwarted by the crossbar and Arshavin shot tamely from 12 yards.
It might even have been worse for Arsenal as Sunderland, who had lost each of their previous four matches, came close to snatching a late winner through Danny Welbeck.
Seething Wenger 'disgusted' by big decisions
Arsene Wenger's men must now shake off their disappointment and turn their attention to Tuesday's critical Champions League last-16 second leg against Barcelona - where they will aim to defend a 2-1 lead.
Cesc Fabregas is likely to recover from a hamstring injury in time to start at the Nou Camp but in his programme notes the Gunners captain urged Arsenal to focus solely on Sunderland with the title race "in our hands now".
Focus was indeed a key requirement for them in the early stages as Sunderland enjoyed plenty of possession, passing and moving with confidence and intent.
Johan Djourou needed to be alert to clear a low Jordan Henderson cross with Asamoah Gyan ready to pounce, while Phil Bardsley drilled narrowly wide from 20 yards.
Both sides were set up in 4-2-3-1 formations yet it was the visitors, winless in the league at Arsenal since 1983, who carried the greater threat going forward.
Lacking the calming influences of Fabregas and Robin van Persie, the hosts were forced to play largely on the counter-attack in the first half and the home supporters were soon murmuring in frustration.
A sliding Nicklas Bendtner almost connected with Gael Clichy's cross from the left but they had still yet to test Mignolet when Stephane Sessegnon saw a powerful effort repelled by Wojciech Szczesny at the other end.
Eventually Nasri began to drift infield from his position on the right of midfield and it seemed to help Arsenal settle into something resembling their usual rhythm.
Bruce credits Mignolet after draw at Arsenal
On 35 minutes the Frenchman slalomed his way past several Sunderland defenders before his cut-back was deflected behind, and from the resultant corner Bendtner hit a close-range overhead kick straight at Mignolet.
Sunderland were now carrying less of a threat and manager Steve Bruce's concern showed when he lambasted Gyan for losing the ball on the near touchline and then failing to chase back.
The Black Cats were almost made to pay as Jack Wilshere released Bendtner, only for Mignolet to claw the Dane's goal-bound shot over the bar.
Arsenal started the second half much as they finished the first - seeing plenty of the ball but struggling to put Sunderland under sustained pressure or create meaningful openings.
But when Chamakh was brought on for Denilson - Wenger replacing a holding midfielder with a striker - the substitute almost had an immediate impact, only for Mignolet to deny Arshavin after the Moroccan's run and pass from right.
It was not long before Arsenal were applying pressure and Nasri's free-kick was clawed away before Chamakh rattled the woodwork with a close-range header.
The Gunners were laying siege to Sunderland's goal and they had a glorious chance to break the deadlock when Wilshere put Arshavin away but the Russian sliced wide under pressure from Bramble, who was lucky not to concede a spot-kick for a shove in the back of his opponent.
Sunderland managed to weather the storm and even pushed for a winner themselves, substitute Welbeck - returning from six weeks out - turning and delivering a shot that a diving Szczesny did brilliantly to turn behind. Bramble fired over from the corner.
But the game's most controversial moment came when Arshavin rounded Mignolet and put the ball into the Sunderland net only to be pulled back for offside despite being clearly level when played through by Bendtner.
Right at the last, Bendtner sent a glanced header goalwards and Djourou was inches away from diverting the ball past Mignolet as Arsenal's last hopes of a winner disappeared.
Sunderland manager Steve Bruce: "Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet has had a fantastic season in his first year in the Premier League after coming from the first division in Belgium.
"We are not surprised that he has put in a performance like that because we see him every day in training and we know what he can do.
"This is a day that he will remember for a very, very long time."
90:00+4:28 Headed effort from inside the area by Laurent Koscielny misses to the left of the goal.
90:00+4:00 Corner taken right-footed by Andrey Arshavin.
90:00+3:04 Nicklas Bendtner takes a shot. Save by Simon Mignolet.
90:00+2:28 Jack Colback concedes a free kick for a foul on Jack Wilshere. Direct free kick taken by Andrey Arshavin.
90:00+2:28 Booking The referee cautions Jack Colback for unsporting behaviour.
90:00+1:28 Danny Welbeck is caught offside. Laurent Koscielny takes the free kick.
90:00+0:48 Andrey Arshavin is caught offside. Simon Mignolet takes the free kick.
88:40 Samir Nasri gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Sulley Muntari. Sulley Muntari restarts play with the free kick.
87:39 Free kick awarded for a foul by Sulley Muntari on Tomas Rosicky. Direct free kick taken by Andrey Arshavin.
86:45 The offside flag is raised against Andrey Arshavin. Simon Mignolet takes the direct free kick.
86:45 Substitution Jordan Henderson leaves the field to be replaced by Jack Colback.
85:11 Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Ahmed Elmohamady from the left by-line, Stephane Sessegnon takes a shot from just
inside the penalty box which clears the bar.
84:26 Samir Nasri challenges Danny Welbeck unfairly and gives away a free kick. Sulley Muntari restarts play with the free kick.
84:26 Booking Booking for Samir Nasri.
83:12 Corner from the left by-line taken by Ahmed Elmohamady, Effort from deep inside the area by Titus Bramble clears the bar.
82:56 Danny Welbeck takes a shot. Save made by Wojciech Szczesny.
82:36 Jordan Henderson sends in a cross, clearance by Johan Djourou.
82:05 Outswinging corner taken from the right by-line by Jordan Henderson.
81:01 Foul by Laurent Koscielny on Danny Welbeck, free kick awarded. Direct free kick taken by Kieran Richardson.
81:01 Booking Laurent Koscielny is cautioned by the ref for unsporting behaviour.
79:52 Effort from inside the six-yard box by Andrey Arshavin goes wide left of the target.
78:53 Gael Clichy takes a shot. John Mensah gets a block in.
77:47 Substitution Ahmed Elmohamady comes on in place of Asamoah Gyan.
76:11 Substitution Tomas Rosicky comes on in place of Vassiriki Diaby.
75:59 Effort on goal by Bacary Sagna from just inside the area clears the crossbar.
74:53 Bacary Sagna sends in a cross.
74:16 The ball is sent over by Jack Wilshere, Marouane Chamakh takes a shot.
71:17 Stephane Sessegnon concedes a free kick for a foul on Laurent Koscielny. Samir Nasri produces a strike on goal direct from
the free kick, Simon Mignolet makes a save.
69:31 Nicklas Bendtner produces a cross, clearance made by Anton Ferdinand.
67:34 The assistant referee signals for offside against Marouane Chamakh. Simon Mignolet restarts play with the free kick.
67:34 Substitution Danny Welbeck on for Steed Malbranque.
65:36 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Andrey Arshavin by Stephane Sessegnon. Andrey Arshavin crosses the ball, Nicklas
Bendtner has a headed effort from close range and clears the crossbar.
64:03 Booking Jack Wilshere receives a yellow card for dissent.
62:09 Unfair challenge on Asamoah Gyan by Laurent Koscielny results in a free kick. Free kick taken by Titus Bramble.
61:55 Andrey Arshavin takes a shot. Save made by Simon Mignolet.
60:50 Free kick awarded for a foul by Neves Denilson on Stephane Sessegnon. Free kick taken by Simon Mignolet.
60:50 Substitution (Arsenal) makes a substitution, with Marouane Chamakh coming on for Neves Denilson.
58:54 Unfair challenge on Neves Denilson by Jordan Henderson results in a free kick. Laurent Koscielny takes the direct free kick.
58:54 Booking Jordan Henderson goes into the referee's book for unsporting behaviour.
58:34 The assistant referee flags for offside against Kieran Richardson. Gael Clichy takes the direct free kick.
58:03 Phillip Bardsley crosses the ball, Laurent Koscielny manages to make a clearance.
57:26 Neves Denilson gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Jordan Henderson. Sulley Muntari takes the free kick.
56:34 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Steed Malbranque by Samir Nasri. Free kick taken by Phillip Bardsley.
51:10 Samir Nasri decides to take a short corner.
46:13 The official flags Nicklas Bendtner offside. Simon Mignolet restarts play with the free kick.
45:59 Centre by Gael Clichy, clearance made by John Mensah.
45:13 Nicklas Bendtner is caught offside. Free kick taken by Titus Bramble.
45:01 The second half kicks off.
45:00+2:18 The referee blows for half time.
45:00+0:33 Corner taken right-footed by Samir Nasri from the left by-line, Andrey Arshavin challenges Simon Mignolet unfairly and gives
away a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Simon Mignolet.
45:00+0:22 The ball is delivered by Bacary Sagna, clearance made by Titus Bramble.
43:36 Sulley Muntari takes a inswinging corner from the right by-line to the near post, Gael Clichy manages to make a clearance.
43:14 A cross is delivered by Stephane Sessegnon, clearance by Laurent Koscielny.
42:03 Phillip Bardsley gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Samir Nasri. Free kick taken by Bacary Sagna.
41:13 Sulley Muntari gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Vassiriki Diaby. Free kick taken by Jack Wilshere.
39:53 Corner taken right-footed by Samir Nasri from the left by-line, Titus Bramble manages to make a clearance.
39:40 Nicklas Bendtner takes a shot. Save by Simon Mignolet.
37:54 Samir Nasri takes a shot. Save made by Simon Mignolet.
37:38 Asamoah Gyan is caught offside. Laurent Koscielny takes the direct free kick.
35:03 Inswinging corner taken by Jack Wilshere from the right by-line, Nicklas Bendtner takes a shot. Simon Mignolet makes a save.
34:51 The ball is crossed by Samir Nasri, clearance made by John Mensah.
34:19 Kieran Richardson takes a shot. Jack Wilshere gets a block in.
30:18 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on John Mensah by Laurent Koscielny. Simon Mignolet takes the direct free kick.
24:21 Free kick awarded for a foul by Nicklas Bendtner on Phillip Bardsley. Simon Mignolet restarts play with the free kick.
23:38 The assistant referee signals for offside against Jordan Henderson. Direct free kick taken by Laurent Koscielny.
22:08 Kieran Richardson concedes a free kick for a foul on Neves Denilson. Laurent Koscielny takes the free kick.
22:08 Booking Kieran Richardson shown a yellow card.
21:38 Andrey Arshavin challenges Jordan Henderson unfairly and gives away a free kick. Stephane Sessegnon takes the free kick.
19:49 Jack Wilshere has an effort at goal from outside the area missing to the wide right of the target.
16:49 Stephane Sessegnon takes a shot. Save by Wojciech Szczesny.
15:57 Bacary Sagna produces a cross, clearance made by Titus Bramble.
13:31 Unfair challenge on Steed Malbranque by Bacary Sagna results in a free kick. Free kick taken by Simon Mignolet.
12:07 Free kick awarded for a foul by Anton Ferdinand on Andrey Arshavin. Direct free kick taken by Johan Djourou.
10:50 Bacary Sagna crosses the ball, clearance made by Phillip Bardsley.
9:49 Samir Nasri takes a shot. Save made by Simon Mignolet.
9:09 Free kick awarded for a foul by Kieran Richardson on Vassiriki Diaby. Bacary Sagna restarts play with the free kick.
7:56 Phillip Bardsley has an effort at goal from outside the penalty box missing to the wide left of the goal.
7:15 Corner taken by Jordan Henderson from the left by-line to the near post.
6:17 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on John Mensah by Nicklas Bendtner. Simon Mignolet takes the free kick.
2:22 The ball is swung over by Jordan Henderson, save by Wojciech Szczesny.
1:58 Jordan Henderson decides to take a short corner.
1:15 The assistant referee flags for offside against Asamoah Gyan. Free kick taken by Laurent Koscielny.
0:00 The game kicks-off.
Live text and data provided by The Press Association.
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