Van Persie scores 3 as Arsenal beats Wigan 3-0

LONDON - In-form striker Robin van Persie scored a hat trick as Arsenal eased past Wigan 3-0 to stay in touch with leader Manchester United at the top of the Premier League on Saturday.

By (AP)

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Published: Sun 23 Jan 2011, 1:22 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 7:13 PM

The Netherlands international made it six goals in three games by breaking the deadlock in the 21st minute, adding a second in the 58th and completing his haul in the 85th.

Van Persie earlier wasted a great chance earlier when he blazed a penalty over the crossbar after Cesc Fabregas was brought down in the area by Gary Caldwell, who was sent off.

The margin of victory would have been much wider if it hadn’t been for Wigan goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi, who made a string of superb reflex saves, particularly in the first half.

The Gunners remained two points behind United, having played a game more.

“It was a good team performance overall,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. “The players were a bit frustrated at halftime as they did not take their chances, but during that first half, we played outstanding football.

“We feel stronger and stronger in every single game. It is interesting the chance we have in front of us because for me the way we play is fantastic to watch. Let’s just keep going.”

Van Persie is back to full fitness after missing a large chunk of the first half of the season through injury.

“It is down to us to use him in the right proportion of the games we play,” said Wenger, whose team was still in contention in four competitions — the league, FA Cup, League Cup and Champions League.

“Robin handles it all right. He is intelligent but of course he wants to play.”

Arsenal should have been out of sight by halftime in a match watched by David Beckham, who was currently training with the hosts’ north London rival, Tottenham.

Before opening the scoring, Van Persie had a snap shot tipped over in the eight minute by Al Habsi, who also produced a wondrous save to deny Samir Nasri.

The Oman goalkeeper was finally beaten in the 21st when Alex Song played through Van Persie, who beat the offside before lashing home a left-footed shot from the left side of the penalty area.

Fabregas, who pulled the strings all match from central midfield, was denied twice by Al Habsi before halftime, while Nasri — Arsenal’s other playmaker — had an effort pushed away by the overworked ‘keeper.

Fabregas was the provider for Van Persie’s second, the Spain international clipping a pass over the top of Wigan’s flat defense for the striker to slot into the net with a fine first-time finish.

Van Persie squandered the perfect chance to claim a hat trick 20 minutes from the end. Fabregas was dragged down by Caldwell, who received a straight red card for the foul, but Van Persie smashed the spot kick over the bar.

Van Persie, who scored twice against West Ham last weekend before also netting at Leeds in an FA Cup third-round replay on Wednesday, hit the post in the closing stages as Arsenal continued to waste opportunities.

His hat trick arrived with five minutes remaining, running on to Theo Walcott’s pass to smash home another well-taken finish.

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