With Newcastle’s match at Middlesbrough a victim of the weather, Arsenal extended their lead at the top of the Premier League to six points, courtesy of a last gasp Robert Pires winner over Fulham.
The narrow 2-1 victory did not show Arsenal at their best. However it took only 17 minutes before they took the lead through a Pires header from a Thierry Henry cross.
Fulham’s persistent attacks paid off 12 minutes later when Steed Malbranque netted a loose ball from just inside the Gunners’ box. It was not until the 90th minute that Pires scored the winner.
Desppiet the below-par performance, Arsene Wenger managed to find some solace in Arsenal’s performance.
“The strength of the squad and the spirit of the players is what helps us,’ said the Arsenal boss.
‘That shows the belief of the squad that we can do it. We feel that in these type of situations we can come out with three points.”
Manchester United, Arsenal’s closet rival, maintained the pressure on the leaders with a solid two 2-0 victory away to Southampton.
Both sides began well but Manchester United showed their quality in the 15th minute when Van Nistelrooy rounded off an impressive four man move. Seven minutes later Ryan Giggs added a second to secure all three points.
Alex Ferguson remains optimistic about catching leaders Arsenal.
“I’ve always said that if our away results improved we’d have a big chance of catching Arsenal and winning the title.”
Elsewhere in the Premiership, Liverpool moved within three points of a Champions League spot by beating relegation candidates West Ham 0-3.
A dejected Hammers boss Glenn Roeder said afterwards: “Some have responsibilities and certain people didn’t do it. There were players who didn’t get close enough to the Liverpool players. That had a lot to do with them being frightened.”
Fourth-placed Chelsea allowed Liverpool to close the gap on them as Tottenham held them to a 1-1 draw.
Everton poured more misery on Leeds and Terry Venables as they maintained a three match winning streak with a 2-0 victory at Goodison Park.
Sunderland dropped to the foot of the table after performing hari kari and scoring three own goals in their 3-1 home defeat to Charlton. Fellow strugglers Bolton beat Birmingham 4-2, in a result that drags the Bllues into the relegation dogfight, while bottom-of-the-table West Brom climbed two places after beating Manchester City 2-1.