Arsenal, looking to go within one point of league-leaders Manchester United, were unable to find a way past a resolute Sunderland at the Emirates Stadium today.
Arsene Wenger’s side, without the injured trio of Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas and Theo Walcott were often frustrated by their opponents, for whom Anton Ferdinand, Titus Bramble, John Mensah and Phil Bardsley were all outstanding.
Without the pace of Walcott, the Gunners were unable to penetrate the Black Cats backline, and on the brief occasions they did, they found Simon Mignolet, the young Belgian goalkeeper standing in for the injured Craig Gordon, in inspired form.
In the first period after Stephane Sessegnon had forced Wojciech Szcezsny into a good low save, Mignolet made an outstanding one-handed save from Nicklas Bendtner.
Both sides played decent enough football, although the only outstanding forward player on the field was the fleet-footed Frenchman Samir Nasri.
In the second period desperation gripped Arsenal’s play, and after Andrey Arshavin had screwed a shot wide of the near post when clean through, the Russian thought that he had given the Gunners the lead.
After being played through, Arshavin rounded Mignolet and rolled the ball into an empty net, only for the goal to be disallowed, albeit wrongly, for offside.
“I’m too disgusted to speak about it. These things can have an impact on the Premier League -Justice has not been done” was the opinion of Arsene Wenger on the decision.
Marouane Chamakh, the Moroccan striker who hasn’t scored a Premier League goal since November, headed off the crossbar, before Danny Welbeck, making his return as a substitute, after injury, forced a save of the highest order from Szcezsny at the other end.
In the end, Wenger will see it as two points dropped by his side, whose football was far too ponderous to threaten the Sunderland defence on a consistent basis.
At the Reebok Stadium Bolton Wanderers edged out Aston Villa in a five-goal thriller.
Darren Bent, having already spurned a glorious one on one opportunity, gave Villa the lead in the 15th minute, turning home from close range after a fine run down the right wing by on-loan Tottenham Hotspur full-back Kyle Walker.
However, with Nathan Baker and Ciaran Clark in the centre of defence, Villa always looked vulnerable and were consistently troubled by the power of Kevin Davies and the movement of Daniel Sturridge.
However, Bolton’s equaliser on the stroke of half-time came from neither forward, but instead former Villa defender Gary Cahill, who headed home a Martin Petrov corner.
The openness of the first half continued in the second period and after Stewart Downing had missed a guilt-edged chance for Villa, and Sturridge had done likewise at the other end, the away side re-took the lead in the 64th minute.
Downing surged down the right and provided a pin-point cross for the lively Marc Albrighton, who coolly volleyed past Jussi Jaaskelainen.
And just three minutes later Villa should have secured all three points, when Ashley Young cut through the Wanderers defence, only to be crudely fouled by David Wheater, the Bolton defender, in the penalty area.
However Young, who scored from the spot against Blackburn Rovers last week, saw his spot-kick saved by Jaaskelainen, an event which changed the entire course of proceedings.
All of a sudden Villa looked panicked, and after a period of sustained pressure from Owen Coyle’s side, Cahill bagged his second goal of the game, firing home at the second attempt after Brad Fridel had saved his first effort.
Finally, in the last, most dramatic twist of the match, a Kevin Davies knock-down was rifled into the net by Croatian international striker Ivan Klasnic, to give Bolton all three points.
At Craven Cottage a late penalty from Bobby Zamora, gave Fulham a 3-2 win over Blackburn Rovers, who have picked up only one point from their last five matches.
Damien Duff scored twice against his former side, but a Grant Hanley strike had equalised the first effort, and an emphatic volley from Junior Hoilett levelled the second.
Nonetheless, in the 89th minute, referee Mark Clattenburg adjudged that Aaron Hughes had been fouled by Hanley in the Rovers penalty area and Zamora scored from the spot, his first goal in 13 months.
Everton, after their dismal performance in the FA Cup defeat to Reading in midweek, escaped St. James’ Park with all three points after a 2-1 victory over Newcastle United.
Leon Best had given the Toon Army a 23rd minute lead, heading home from close range after an error from Toffees ‘keeper Tim Howard.
Yet, David Moyes side showed their resilience to not only equalise, but also to take the lead before the end of the first period.
Firstly, midfielder Leon Osman coolly put Everton on level terms, after some sublime play from Spanish playmaker Mikel Arteta, playing on the left-side of midfield.
And just five minutes later, Phil Jagielka, the central defender, fired a Leighton Baines free-kick, high into the roof of the net, past Steve Harper, to give Moyes’ side the win.
West Ham United moved out of the bottom three with a dominant 3-0 win over Stoke City at Upton Park.
The Hammers started the game well and took a deserved lead in the 21st minute, when a defensive mix-up allowed Demba Ba, who almost joined the Potters during the January transfer window before moving to East London, an easy finish.
The Upton Park faithful saw a second goal from their side before half-time, when Manuel Da Costa headed a Thomas Hitzlsperger free-kick past Asmir Begovic.
After the break the pressure from the home side continued, and James Tomkins, the England under-21 international defender, was unlucky not to get his name on the scoresheet, but his header hit the post.
Injury-hit German international Hitslsperger added his name to the scoresheet late on, blasting home a loose ball after Stoke had failed to fully clear a shot from Frederic Piquionne.
In the day’s early kick-off, West Bromwich Albion beat League Cup winners Birmingham City 3-1 at St. Andrews.
A dour first half was followed by an enthralling second and Albion took the lead within two minutes of the restart, Youssef Mulumbu poking past Ben Foster.
However, within 60 seconds, Alex McLeish’s side were level, Lee Bowyer’s cross from the right, turned in from close range by Jean Beausejour.
But in the 58th minute, Roy Hodgson’s side re-took the lead, after a moment of inspiration from attacking midfielder James Morrison.
The former Middlesbrough man left Blues defender Curtis Davies for dead, before firing an unstoppable left-foot shot past Ben Foster, into the top corner, from 20 yards out.
The Baggies wrapped up the three points when Austrian midfielder Paul Scharner headed home a third, a result that sees them escape the drop-zone, but sees Blues fall in.