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Arsenal falls even further

02 February 2012, 09:38

London - Arsenal missed a great chance to move within touching distance of the top four in the Premier League on Wednesday, drawing 0-0 at relegation-threatened Bolton to slip back to seventh place in the standings.

Instead, it was Newcastle which breathed new life into its Champions League hopes by winning 2-0 at Blackburn to climb above Arsenal into fifth position - three points behind fourth-place Chelsea.

Robin van Persie struck the goal frame twice in the second half for Arsenal, which is in danger of missing out on next season's European competitions entirely if the team can't turn around a run that has failed to yield a victory in four matches.

"The belief is there, the desire is there and the confidence is there," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. "We have come through a difficult period and we have, of course, a fight in front of us - but we are ready for it."

Sunderland kept up its revival under Martin O'Neill by easing past Norwich 3-0 to jump to eighth, West Bromwich Albion grabbed a late equalizer in a 1-1 draw at Fulham, and Aston Villa rallied from two goals down to draw 2-2 at home to Queens Park Rangers.

Chelsea's 1-1 draw at Swansea on Tuesday left the door ajar for Arsenal and Newcastle to make inroads, but only Alan Pardew's men took full advantage.

An unfortunate own goal by Scott Dann gifted Newcastle the lead in the 12th minute at Ewood Park and French winger Gabriel Obertan made the game safe in second-half injury time, compounding the relegation worries of third-to-last Blackburn.

Arsenal was also visiting a northwest team struggling at the wrong end of the standings but failed to find a cutting edge at Reebok Stadium.

"For us, every game in the championship is a cup final for us now," Wenger said.

Van Persie, the league's leading scorer with 19 goals, usually provides that attacking threat. But he had an early header cleared off the line before shooting against the post, then the bar, in a one-sided second half.

Arsenal's three-match losing run came to an end but that will be of little relief to manager Arsene Wenger, whose team's only wins in 2012 have come in the FA Cup.

"When you create six or seven clear-cut chances, it is difficult not to win and we do have regrets, but the positives have to be that we didn't concede," Wenger said.

Newcastle was missing Senegal strikers Demba Ba and Papiss Demba Cisse, who only recently returned to the club from African Cup of Nations duty, and relied on a Blackburn player to open the scoring.

A shot by Ryan Taylor took a heavy deflection off Dann to leave goalkeeper Paul Robinson stranded.

David Dunn missed a penalty for Blackburn a minute before halftime and Obertan made him pay in the second minute of injury time, finishing off a quick break and leaving the hosts two points adrift of safety.

Premier League teams were able to try out their deadline-day signings for the first time on Wednesday, and one recruit made a particularly impressive introduction.

Djibril Cisse, the former Liverpool and Sunderland striker who moved to QPR for a reported 4 million pounds ($6.3 million) from Lazio, took just 12 minutes to mark his return to English football with a goal by latching onto a loose ball and arrowing a shot into the corner.

An own goal by Stephen Warnock in the 29th minute left QPR 2-0 ahead, but Villa recovered to force a draw.

Darren Bent became the 21st player to score 100 Premier League goals, reaching the landmark with a near-post finish from Alan Hutton's cross, before Charles N'Zogbia equalized with 11 minutes remaining.

First-half goals by Frazier Campbell and Stephane Sessegnon, plus an own goal by Daniel Ayala after the break, secured buoyant Sunderland a sixth win in nine games since O'Neill took over in December.

The Northern Irishman arrived with the team in the relegation zone, but Sunderland is now seven points behind Arsenal and in much healthier form than Wenger's side.

"I'm delighted with the team, obviously. Wow. Just delighted with them," said O'Neill, who has compiled the best start by a Sunderland manager in 100 years.

United States attacking midfielder Clint Dempsey gave Fulham the lead at Craven Cottage with his 10th goal of the season, but Somen Tchoyi equalised in the 82nd - five minutes after coming off the bench - to lift West Brom eight points clear of the bottom three.

- Sapa

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