Van Persie lifts Arsenal back into top four
Arsenal captain Robin van Persie fired his side back into the Premier League's top four with the decisive strike in Saturday's 1-0 win over QPR at the Emirates Stadium.
Although van Persie failed to break the record for Premier League goals in a calendar year, the Dutch forward - who needed two strikes to equal Alan Shearer's 1995 tally of 36 goals - was still able to lift Arsenal back above Chelsea into fourth place with a cool finish in the second half.
With Thierry Henry watching from the stands ahead of his loan return to Arsenal, Arsene Wenger's team again relied on their top scorer to move two points clear of fifth-placed Chelsea.
Van Persie had drawn a blank in his previous game, the 1-1 draw against Wolverhampton Wanderers, but this time he had Theo Walcott returning from illness to supply crosses from the right flank.
Neil Warnock's QPR had goalkeeper Paddy Kenny missing after a training ground injury but they managed to frustrate the hosts in the early stages and could have snatched the lead.
Former Gunners forward Jay Bothroyd had the first effort of the match, forcing Wojciech Szczesny into a save after he was given too much room on the edge of the penalty area.
Szczesny was also called into action in the 10th minute when Adel Taarabt slipped the ball through to Shaun Wright-Phillips, who got a shot away but saw the Arsenal goalkeeper rush out to block.
It was not until mid-way through the first half that Arsenal started to create chances, and inevitably they fell to van Persie.
His first chance came when Aaron Ramsey floated a cross to the far post where van Persie was unmarked, but he was off balance and could only head wide.
Then Johan Djourou ran powerfully from right-back before finding van Persie, who cleared the crossbar with his finish after finding a way around Luke Young.
Van Persie was furious with himself for missing the next chance after he skipped around Matthew Connolly to latch onto Thomas Vermaelen's long pass, only to put the ball too high again.
The hosts also felt van Persie should have been given a chance from the penalty spot, but Martin Atkinson waved play on when Young blocked Laurent Koscielny's shot with his arm.
Before the break, Joey Barton appeared to handle in the area when he attempted to block Mikel Arteta's cross, and the QPR skipper also cleared off the goal-line when Ramsey's volley looked certain to find the net.
Ramsey dragged a shot into the side netting after the interval and the hosts' frustration grew when they were forced into making a substitution.
Vermaelen lasted less than 10 minutes of the second half before Francis Coquelin replaced him.
Walcott had Arsenal's next clear opportunity when Ramsey sent him clean through. The England winger wrong-footed Radek Cerny as he shot, but the finish went wide of the left-hand post.
The deadlock was finally broken on the hour mark when van Persie grabbed his goal.
Wright-Phillips was guilty of gifting possession to Andrei Arshavin and the Russian slipped the ball beyond the QPR defence, with van Persie drilling his shot into the bottom-left corner.
QPR responded through Taarabt, who had an effort saved and a penalty appeal turned down when he was challenged by Coquelin.
Gervinho missed the best chance to extend the lead when he shot wide from close range after a van Persie cross.
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