x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Arsene Wenger confident of top four finish, Cisse scores on QPR debut

In a busy night of Premier League action Arsenal were held to a goalless draw with Bolton, while Queens Park Rangers draw 2-2 with Aston Villa and new striker scores after 12 minutes.

Djibril Cisse scored on his debut for QPR against Aston Villa.
Djibril Cisse scored on his debut for QPR against Aston Villa.

Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, is confident his side remain in with a good chance of qualifying for the Champions League despite dropping points in the goalless draw at Bolton.

In the nights other matches Queens Park Rangers new signing, Djibril Cisse, took just 12 minutes to score on his debut, in a 2-2 draw away to Aston Villa, Sunderland continued their revival under Martin O'Neill with a 3-0 home win with Norwich, Alan Pardew called Newcastle "lucky" in their win away to Blackburn, and Fulham were heald at home to 1-1 draw against West Bromwich Albion.

It was Arsenal's first point in four matches and, although they stayed within five points of fourth-placed Chelsea, who drew at Swansea last night, they slipped to seventh in the table.

"There is a long way to go and I am confident we can come back," said Wenger of the race for fourth place, which involves themselves, Chelsea, Liverpool and Newcastle.

"We have gone through a difficult period, we've lost three league games (prior to tonight's match) but we could have won the three as well.

"We have confidence but we have to produce it game by game - for us every game in the championship is a cup final for us now.

"Even when we have won championships we have not won for six games.

"It is part of football that when you lose three games like we did when you don't lose the fourth game it is already not too bad."

Wanderers' first clean sheet in 12 league matches secured another point towards survival.

"Coming onto the game we were in good form but we knew we would have to work very hard against a quality side," said manager Owen Coyle.

Striker Cisse is "100 per cent confident" QPR will survive in the Premier League after scoring on his debut. Cisse only obtained clearance to play an hour and a half before kick off but needed just 12 minutes to break the deadlock.

Cisse said: "It is a good thing for us that we have signed Bobby Zamora. The objective is to stay in the Premier League.

"We need good strikers and good players, it is good to play alongside a good striker and Bobby fits into that category.

"But, from I saw against Villa, I was really impressed and 100 per cent sure we will stay up."

Mark Hughes, the QPR manager, has no doubt that Cisse will have a massive impact at Loftus Road.

He said: "I thought he was excellent. I think everyone understands why I wanted to bring him to the club.

"He was bright and intelligent in his running and showed the power and pace we all know he has - and a good finish as well."

Villa fell 2-0 behind after Stephen Warnock's own goal but Darren Bent's 100th Premier League goal and Charles N'Zogbia's first for the club rescued a point.

Alan Pardew, the Newcastle manager, conceded his side rode their luck in coming away from Ewood Park tonight with a 2-0 victory over Blackburn that lifted them to fifth.

Pardew praised the attitude shown by his players as they bounced back from Saturday's FA Cup defeat by Brighton, saying: "With the loss of (Yohan) Cabaye this morning and so many key players out, I think we knew coming here it was going to be very difficult.

"We talked about it before the start of the game, to be resilient and strong. Blackburn put everything in your box. We had to be strong and we were, but we had some fortune in the game, something I didn't think we got at Brighton, and sometimes that can make a difference."

For Blackburn boss Steve Kean, it was another costly defeat that kept his side mired in the relegation zone, and the circumstances only made the result all the more frustrating.

The Scot said: "I think we had enough chances to win three games, never mind one. We didn't start the game well, but after the deflected goal we controlled the last 30 minutes of the first half.

"In that respect we were happy, we just felt we snatched at a few chances and didn't show enough composure in front of goal. We've just got to take that one on the chin, sometimes the performance and chances don't always equal a result."

Martin O'Neill, the Sunderland manager, is refusing to let anyone be carried away by Sunderland's surge into the top half of the table.

"We have got some points on the board, but if we had not got a point tonight... Let's say Norwich go and beat you - it's just my normal defensive mechanism - you play Stoke, a really difficult game, then you have got Arsenal.

"Suddenly you lose a game or two and you don't know where the next point is coming from. I have been there before, so it's really important just to keep the players going."

Norwich were far from at their best at the Stadium of Light, but manager Paul Lambert, who played under O'Neill at Celtic, was not too downhearted.

He said: "Listen, you take the disappointment, like anything, and you mull over it for a few days.

"The good thing is Saturday will be on us before we know it, and then we have to go again and try to win that."

Roy Hodgson, the West Brom manager and former Fulham manager, received a standing ovation from the home support as he made his way to the dugout, before the two side drew 1-1.

"It was nice to come here and get the point," he said.

"I was absolutely delighted with the way we played the game. I thought it was fantastic, the reception I got from the crowd. That also made it a very nice evening for me."