EPL Results: Bendtner the Hero as Arsenal Survive Cardiff Rearguard Action; Chelsea and Liverpool Cruise

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By Deepak Vikraman | January 2, 2014 4:01 AM EST

Liverpool forward Luis Suarez celebrates with teammate Glen Johnson after scoring against Hull, January 1. Reuters
Liverpool forward Luis Suarez celebrates with teammate Glen Johnson after scoring against Hull, January 1. Reuters

For 88 minutes, try as they might, even with 11 players attacking the Cardiff goal, Arsenal could not find a way through - it looked like being one of those Arsene-Wenger-shakes-his-head-in-disbelief days.

Then came that much-maligned, but Wenger-keeps-his-faith striker Nicklas Bendtner, slotting home two minutes from time to send joy unbound reverberating around the Emirates, and with it ease the pressure to finally seal a 2-0 win for Arsenal, a win that took them back to the top of the English Premier League table after Manchester City had held the position for a couple of hours thanks to their own 3-2 win over another Welsh side Swansea.

The chasing pack, Chelsea and Liverpool did their jobs as well, Fernando Torres starting a three-goal goal glut against Southampton, while Luis Suarez got back to his I-shoot-I-score ways, guiding Liverpool to a 2-0 result over Hull City.

At the end of another breathtaking nine games on New Year's Day, it is as it was on the final day of 2013, with Arsenal leading the Premier League table by a point from Manchester City, while Chelsea are third with 43 points, with Liverpool climbing over Everton to fourth, after Roberto Martinez's men could only manage a 1-1 draw against Stoke City.

At the Emirates, there was plenty of pretty patterns and here-is-a-shot-try-and-save-it-moments from Arsenal without the final product, the goal.

Theo Walcott, so vital for the Gunners since returning from injury, had a bit of a personal contest going with the Cardiff goal, with the latter, unfortunately, from the home side's point of view, winning the contest hands down.

Try as Walcott might, the ball just would not dip, swerve, or take that Frank Lampard-like deflection needed to nestle into the back of the net.

Jack Wilshere, playing in a more advanced role in midfield, with Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini sitting behind, was the orchestrator-in-chief for Arsenal on his 22nd birthday, and was left seething after seeing a penalty appeal ignored by referee Jon Moss, with the midfielder brought down while trying to scythe through the Cardiff defence by Gary Medel.

Cardiff, with manager-in-waiting Ole Gunnar Solskjaer enjoying the game from one of those luxurious boxes along with owner Vincent Tan, were more than happy to suck the pressure, and hit Arsenal on the counter, with Jordan Mutch, in particular, giving Arsene Wenger, getting increasingly frustrated at the chances not going in, a couple of minor worries.

This Arsenal first half performance was much like the one seen at Upton Park against West Ham on Boxing Day - lots of possession, and why-did-you-not-put-that-away chances raining in just as frequently as the wet weather.

Arsenal, winless in their last two EPL games at home, would, no doubt, have been warned about taking their eyes off the ball come the beginning of the second half, and avoid a West Ham-like first ten minutes meltdown.

It was an attack vs defence training exercise in the second half, with no prizes for guessing who was doing all the attacking, as Arsenal pressed, probed, but just could not break that Cardiff blue wall down.

Wilshere was the main man, with every single chance seemingly going through him, as the midfielder, wanting to take the matter in his own hands, also unleashed a powerful strike straight onto the post, while Per Mertesacker missed a couple of head-me-in headers off corners.

Wenger made a couple of changes, bringing on Nicklas Bendtner for the-I-just-don't-seem-to-be-able-to-make-the-same-impact-playing-as-a-centre-forward Lukas Podolski, and Tomas Rosicky for Flamini. The urgency went a couple of volumes higher with the changes, but that solid thou-shall-not-pass Cardiff door stayed intact.

Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner scores the winner against Cardiff in their English Premier League game, January 1. Reuters
Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner scores the winner against Cardiff in their English Premier League game, January 1. Reuters

It looked like being a day when the ball had made a pre-match deal with Cardiff not to go in, but the goal finally, much to the majority of the Emirates Stadium's relief, came.

Monreal lobbed in a cross onto the far post which was headed towards goal by Bacary Sagna. The header was brilliantly saved by David Marshall, who despite Arsenal's 23 shots, had little to do all game, only for you-certainly-are-the-greatest-player-in-the-world-sang-Arsenal-fans Bendtner to slot home the rebound two minutes from the 90.

Bendtner injured himself scoring the goal and had to be replaced by Thomas Vermaelen, but the Dane had done his job and so had Arsenal, with Walcott, courtesy a delightful pass from Wilshere, adding the insurance in sumptuous style.

At St. Mary's, the first half score remained the same as one at the Emirates, with chances very much at a premium. Rain played a big role in the quality of the game, with Fernando Torres coming close on a couple of occasions, while the Saints held their own against the in-form Blues.

Jose Fonte nearly scored right after kickoff in the second half, with some desperate Chelsea defending preventing the ball from hitting the back of the net. Chelsea then had a big penalty appeal turned down, as Oscar went down under the challenge from Saints goalkeeper Kelvin Davis - the referee correctly deciding not to point to the spot.

The Blues would go ahead on the hour, however, as Oscar's cross took a wicked deflection of Calum Chambers before striking the base of the post, with Torres on hand to nod the ball into an empty net - the first goal scored by a Chelsea striker away from home in 13 months.

It was game, set and let's-all-go-home match as Willian made it 2-0 in the 71st minute, with Oscar then slamming home ten minutes later to ensure a thoroughly satisfying victory for Jose Mourinho's men.

At Anfield, Liverpool got back to winning ways after two straight defeats, with goals from Daniel Agger and Luis Suarez, either side of halftime, enough to give all three points against Hull City, the side that beat the Reds in the reverse fixture not too long ago.

Results: Swansea 2-3 Manchester City; Liverpool 2-0 Hull, Southampton 0-3 Chelsea; Arsenal 2-0 Cardiff; Crystal Palace 1-1 Norwich; Fulham 2-1 West Ham; Stoke 1-1 Everton; Sunderland 0-1 Aston Villa; West Brom 1-0 Newcastle.

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(Photo: / )
Liverpool forward Luis Suarez celebrates with teammate Glen Johnson after scoring against Hull, January 1. Reuters
(Photo: / )
Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner scores the winner against Cardiff in their English Premier League game, January 1. Reuters
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