Portsmouth 0-3 Arsenal

By David Ornstein

Theo Walcott congratulates Nicklas Bendtner
Bendtner helped Arsenal extend their unbeaten league run to 21 matches

Arsenal booked their place in next season’s Champions League with a win that means Portsmouth are still yet to secure their Premier League status.

Pompey goalkeeper David James gifted Arsenal the opener when he fumbled Nicklas Bendtner’s header into his net.

Bendtner then grabbed a second from the penalty spot after Sean Davis was ruled to have fouled Andrey Arshavin.

The hosts went close through John Utaka, Kanu and Peter Crouch but Carlos Vela lashed home a third from 18 yards.

Arsenal’s victory moves them 13 points clear of fifth-place Aston Villa, who play on Monday, and they are now mathematically guaranteed to finish at least fourth.

They are unbeaten in 21 league matches and have scored at least three goals in each of their last five away league games, equalling a club record set in 1932.

Portsmouth are seven points clear of the relegation zone but need another six from the remaining nine available to make absolutely sure of their survival.

They run without a victory over one of the ‘big four’ extends to 17 games but they will be confident of avoiding the drop, with Blackburn, Sunderland and Wigan their final three opponents.

Gunners boss Arsene Wenger clearly had an eye on his side’s Champions League semi-final second leg against Manchester United on Tuesday, and made eight changes to the XI which started the first leg at Old Trafford in midweek.

But the visitors immediately settled into their usual rhythm early on and posed countless problems to a Portsmouth defence which struggled to cope with their attacking threat all afternoon.

Theo Walcott signalled Arsenal’s intent within three minutes, latching on to Arshavin’s through-ball and fizzing an inviting centre across the face of goal. Fortunately for Portsmouth, none of Walcott’s colleagues could were in position to convert.

A completely unmarked Johan Djourou headed Arshavin’s corner over the bar before Walcott slipped in Bendtner to test James with an angled drive.

Vela had a penalty shout rejected when he was hauled over by Sylvain Distin – referee Lee Mason awarded a corner despite Distin appearing to make no contact with the ball – but Arsenal’s pressure would soon tell.

Portsmouth could only clear the resultant set-piece straight back Arshavin and his cross was met by Bendtner, whose header squirmed embarrassingly through James’s hands and into the net.

Herman Hreidarsson prevented Vela from adding to Arsenal’s lead with a last-ditch block, but Portsmouth were not without chances of their own.

Inside the first 10 minutes, Nadir Belhadj broke clear of a brittle-looking Arsenal back four but sliced his shot horribly wide and Peter poked inches wide after fine build-up play.

Yet as the half wore on Arsenal assumed complete control and their advantage was doubled when Bendtner slotted into James’ left-hand corner following Davies’ challenge on Arshavin.

Replays suggested the midfielder might have got a toe to the ball as he slid in on Arsenal’s stand-in captain and Portsmouth were furious with referee Lee Mason.

Pompey caretaker manager Paul Hart attempted introduced Kanu and John Utaka at the break, and the hosts began the second half in determined fashion.

Utaka screwed wide from a glorious position before Crouch and Kanu went close with driven efforts and Utaka failed to get a shot away having rounded Fabianski.

The home crowd were in full voice but they would soon be deflated as Arsenal broke away and Arshavin laid the ball back for Vela to lash into the bottom left-hand corner of James’ net from the edge of the area.


BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Andrey Arshavin with 8.53 (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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