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Bendtner keeps Everton waiting for UEFA Cup place

SoccerNews in English Premier League 4 May 2008


Everton missed a chance to wrap up a UEFA Cup spot as Nicklas Bendtner's late goal condemned David Moyes's side to a 1-0 defeat against Arsenal on Sunday.

With 13 minutes left to play at the Emirates Stadium, Everton were on course to claim the point they needed to secure fifth place and guarantee European football next season.

But Bendtner's powerful header left them to sweat for another week. Now the Toffees have to avoid defeat at home to Newcastle next Sunday to ensure they finish above Aston Villa, who remain three points behind Moyes's side.

Bendtner's winner gave Arsenal a third successive victory but Arsene Wenger's emerging young squad will have to settle for the promise of better things to come.

Villa's defeat against Wigan on Saturday had left Everton within touching distance of another continental campaign.

A draw would have been enough for Everton so Moyes opted to deploy Andy Johnson as the lone striker and leave Ayegbeni Yakubu on the bench.

In contrast to the visitors, Arsenal had nothing more than pride to play for. Their fading title challenge was extinguished by Manchester United's win 24 hours earlier and there was an unfamiliar look about Wenger's experimental team, with Cesc Fabregas and Mathieu Flamini among the notable absentees watching from the stands.

Still, Everton could take nothing for granted. They would hardly have been encouraged by their miserable record at Arsenal, where they were without a victory since January 1996.

The safe-first nature of Moyes's line-up inevitably presented the initiative to Arsenal in the opening stages. Theo Walcott threatened when the winger exchanged passes with Denilson before curling a shot past the far post.

But Everton's hunger ensured they didn't lie dormant for long. Manuel Fernandes cleverly worked space to send Johnson scampering clear of Gael Clichy, with Lukasz Fabianksi forced to save with his feet.

Everton went even closer when Joleon Lescott met Fernandes's corner with a downward header that Denilson alertly hooked off the line.

It was tepid stuff for long spells after that. Adebayor briefly raised the pulse as he burst clear only to poke straight at Tim Howard. The Togo forward was frustrated again as he glanced a diving header off-target from Emmanuel Eboue's cross just before half-time.

Alexandre Song's nervous display at centre-back for Arsenal could have been exploited more by the visitors. Instead they were content to stiffle the Gunners, with Lescott's scuffed effort on the hour a rare foray forward.

Wenger gave Jens Lehmann a farewell appearance at the Emirates midway through the second half. The Germany goalkeeper is likely to leave this close-season after spending much of the current campaign grumbling about his lack of playing time, but Wenger showed no hard feeling as he sent him on for Fabianski.

After coasting for much of the match, Arsenal suddenly sprang into life in the 77th minute.

Bendtner's pass sent Armand Traore away down the left and the young full-back returned the favour with a perfectly-flighted cross. Bendtner thrives on such offerings and rose above Phil Jagielka to power his header past Howard.

Everton couldn't muster a response and face a nervous wait to claim that top five finish.


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