Bendtner keeps Gunners on Chelsea trail

LONDON: Didier Drogba sent Chelsea back to the top of the Premier League on Saturday but Arsenal stayed right on their heels thanks to a stoppage-time victory over 10-man Hull.

Nicklas Bendtner was again the saviour, following up his hat-trick against FC Porto in the Champions League in midweek, with a strike three minutes into added-on time to seal a 2-1 win. Chelsea’s 4-1 win over West Ham kept them above Arsenal on goal difference with Manchester United a point further back.

Tottenham consolidated their hold on the final Champions League qualifying spot with a 3-1 win over Blackburn while Wolves won the day’s big relegation battle, 2-1 at Burnley. Aston Villa were held to a goalless draw by Stoke.

Arsenal looked set for a straightforward victory after Andrey Arshavin fired them ahead after 14 minutes. But they were pegged back by Jimmy Bullard’s penalty after Sol Campbell was deemed to have pulled down Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink. Hull were reduced to 10 men before half-time when George Boateng received a second yellow card but held the vistors at bay until right at the death, when Bendtner slotted home the rebound following a Denilson shot.

West Ham had gone in level at the break at Stamford Bridge, thanks to a stunning 25-yard strike from Scott Parker which cancelled out Alex’s early header for the home side. But Drogba’s second-half brace, either side of a Florent Malouda strike enabled Chelsea to preserve a little energy ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League match against Inter Milan.

Tottenham tightened their grip on fourth place after Roman Pavlyuchenko scored twice in a 3-1 win over Blackburn. Jermain Defoe put Tottenham ahead in the first half. Russian striker Pavlyuchenko struck soon after the interval and then netted again in the closing stages to ease the hosts’ nerves following Christopher Samba’s goal for Blackburn.

Everton’s strong recent form was reflected in a powerful start at Birmingham, Victor Anichebe and Ayegbeni Yakubu giving them a two-goal lead inside 22 minutes. But they were forced to settle for a point after a goal each from Cameron Jerome and Craig Gardner.

Bolton won 4-0 at Wigan. Johan Elmander gave the Trotters a 10th minute lead, before Bolton went on the rampage in the second-half. Kevin Davies converted a penalty after Tamir Cohen was brought down, Fabrice Muamba made sure of the points in the 53rd minute and Matthew Taylor turned the game into a rout with a fourth 17 minutes from time.