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Arsenal struck three late goals to move back into the top four of the Barclays Premier League and deny Norwich City a famous victory at the Emirates Stadium.
With Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur not in action this weekend because of the FA Cup semi-finals, Arsenal had the chance to put UEFA Champions League qualification back in their own hands. However, Norwich, who still need a couple of wins to secure top-flight status, produced a resolute battling display and took the lead after 56 minutes through Michael Turner’s close-range header.
With the clock ticking, Arsenal got back into the match after an assistant referee spotted a shirt-pull on Olivier Giroud by Kei Kamara. Mikel Arteta kept his cool from the spot to level before Giroud turned Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s cutback over the line with two minutes remaining and substitute Lukas Podolski wrapped things up in added time.
Arsenal host Everton on Tuesday night and head to Fulham before Spurs play against Manchester City next weekend and so could open up a significant gap on their North London rivals. Chris Hughton’s men, meanwhile, must now regroup for the visit of Reading and games with Stoke City and Aston Villa, which will ultimately define the end to their season.
Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere returned from an ankle injury, and although Theo Walcott was also fit again, he was named on the bench while captain Thomas Vermaelen returned to defence in place of the suspended Per Mertesacker.
Norwich beat Arsenal at home in October, which started a 10-match undefeated run but have stalled in 2013. The visitors, though, started with some intent as Kamara offered support to captain Grant Holt and Robert Snodgrass in attack.
Arsenal also began well and Giroud was unfortunate to see his backward header loop on to the top of the crossbar. As the half-hour mark approached, Norwich were opened up again as Gervinho dashed on to a through-ball and rounded Bunn but the Ivory Coast forward took the ball too far wide on the right and his cutback from a tight angle rolled across the face of goal and behind.
There was more purpose from Arsenal after the restart, if again without too much penetration in the final third, but it was the visiting supporters who were in full voice just before the hour as Turner headed Norwich into the lead.
Kieran Gibbs, preferred to Nacho Monreal, tripped Kamara on the right of the Arsenal penalty area and when Snodgrass floated the free-kick in, Turner rose unmarked to flick a header into the bottom left corner after 56 minutes.
Wenger’s made a double change, bringing on Walcott and Podolski, who replaced Wilshere and Gervinho. It could have got worse for the hosts when defender Sebastien Bassong broke clear before releasing Russell Martin on the right, but the full-back’s angled shot was straight at Lukasz Fabianski.
At the other end Bunn was also in excellent form, tipping Podolski’s fierce strike on to the crossbar. It seemed as though it was not to be Arsenal’s day but with four minutes left they levelled from the penalty spot.
Following a corner, the assistant on the far side spotted a shirt-pull by Kamara on Giroudin the area. Arteta kept his nerve to guide the ball into the bottom-right corner despite Bunn getting his hands to the ball.
Arsenal turned things around and substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain darted into the area and cut the ball back for Giroud to score from point-blank range.
Norwich might have levelled in their next attack when Jonny Howson was in space on the right but his snapshot was saved by Fabianski's right foot. Arsenal hared up the other end and scored again to add a flattering gloss to the scoreline when Podolski turned to drill home from 18 yards.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger: "We left it late, and it was of course unexpected to be 1-0 down at that stage of the game because we were on top and missed chances. Norwich we knew were strong on set-pieces and they punished us for that.
"We needed spirit and also nerves, we have shown both and in the end got the win we deserved. But credit to Norwich, they have played very well and if they play like that, then they will not go down. They defended well and gave us problems.
"At the moment, the [league] position is not important, has no real meaning, what is important for us is to keep our run going and the consistency of our wins. It is really tight, and the team who is the most consistent will get there. At the moment, we have that consistency, so we want to focus on that."
Norwich City manager Chris Hughton: "Losing in that manner is frustrating. For 85 minutes you have to accept the balance of possession is going to be Arsenal's. But we battled well, broke when we could, took the lead and made it difficult for them.
"We've said you have to look around the 40-point mark and there are teams around us capable of winning games. We have to look after our own business and get the points that we need."
|20 Apr 2013||v Fulham (A)|
|04 May 2013||v QPR (A)|
|28 Apr 2013||v Man Utd (H)|
|16 Apr 2013||v Everton (H)|
|14 May 2013||v Wigan (H)|
|19 May 2013||v Newcastle (A)|