van Persie (98) pen
Kuyt (102) pen
Arsenal and Liverpool games seem to be chequered with last minute solutions.
There was the 1-1 draw earlier this season at Anfield when Jose Reina’s last minute fumble gifted the visitors a point. A few years before in the Champions League we snatched the tie from Arsenal with two late goals then of course there was that game on a hot May night in 1989.
The theme was resurrected today as both sides traded penalties in added time. It remains to be seem if, like that game twenty two years ago, the title’s destiny is decided by it however, Arsenal will need show more care, discipline and common sense if they are going to stop The Mancs.
Of course Sky and others were full of the possibility that we would roll over like obedient puppies and let Arsenal have their three points in order to stop the Mancs from beating our record of eighteen titles. The performance of the team showed this to be utter nonsense and if anyone was indulging in the spot of submissive rolling over it was the home side!
For us we should take some encouragement that we got this result with a seventeen, eighteen and nineteen year old on the pitch. An indication of our lack of depth thanks to injuries but nonetheless Jack Robinson, John Flanagan and Jonjo Shelvey and Jay Spearing showed that we have good cause for optimism about the future? It was a gritty, assured and fairly comfortable performance hopefully we can take this sort of tenacity on for the remainder of the campaign and beyond?
Kenny kept the same side that beat Manchester City meant that John Flanagan kept his place keeping the well again Kyrgiakos on the bench. It was a tentative start which Arsenal shaded. Diaby flashed Nasri’s free kick wide then Reina made heavy weather in dealing with Walcott’s swerving shot. Before that Suarez had a couple of tame efforts and there was a good penalty clam as Djourou felled Spearing or did our man fall into him? Either way the referee was having none of it.
From then on the home side began to dictate. Koscielny headed against the bar from van Persies’ corner and there was risk we would be overrun. The break in play. to see Aurelio helped off with yet another injury, seemed to calm us. Although Arsenal kept pressing, and therefore looked favourites to score first, I wasn’t unduly worried. We dealt with most of what they tried to throw at us and felt we were content to wait for our chance even when at the end of the half Eboue caught us cold and squirmed free to send a tantalising shot come cross across the face of our goal. A satisfactory half Arsenal had plenty of possession but didn’t do anything decisive, we needed to get more ball into the final third.
Early in the second we saw why, at 0-0, any team is in with a chance of beating Arsenal. The defence simply backed off in Suarez’s wake enabling him to cut inside and shoot wide. Suarez was soon at it again picking up from Kuyt, evading Djourou and forcing a good save from Szczesny Before that we lost Andy Carroll who went down right knee injury and, more seriously it seemed, Carragher with a head injury after clashing with Flanagan a concern because if Jamie doesn’t get up you know it’s bad.
Slowly we began assert ourselves although Reina did very well to stop van Persie and then Bendtner in space of a minute from opening he scoring. However as the clock ticked down the tension became greater and this seemed to transfer itself to the Arsenal players as they fannied around, trying to thread the ball through spaces that weren’t really there and assuming that our defenders were simply not wise or good enough to deal with their somewhat predictable approach.
Just as we were contemplating the draw the penalties occurred. Fabregas went down under Spearing’s challenge and then Lucas was clumsily barged by Eboue as they chased the lose ball after Suarez’s free kick. The two Dutchmen, van Persie and Kuyt, made no mistake.
Predictably Wenger felt he was hard done by even though the replay suggested other wise and his ungracious, ignorant response to Kenny at the end of game mirrored his team’s performance namely a lack of appreciation of when to do the right thing at the right time. It was pity given the Arsenal fan’s respect for the minutes silence for Hillsborough and applause for Carragher when he was stretchered off. As for The Mancs it looks like they don’t need us to help them win the title on this evidence Arsenal themselves are more than capable of ensuring they will make it number nineteen!
Arsenal: Szczesny, Eboue, Koscielny, Djourou, Clichy, Diaby (Song 81), Wilshere (Bendtner 72), Walcott (Arshavin 72), Fabregas, Nasri, van Persie. Subs: Lehmann, Song, Squillaci, Arshavin, Gibbs, Chamakh, Bendtner.
Liverpool: Reina, Flanagan, Carragher (Kyrgiakos 61), Skrtel, Aurelio (Robinson 21), Kuyt, Spearing, Lucas, Meireles, Suarez, Carroll (Shelvey 70). Subs: Gulacsi, Cole, Kyrgiakos, Maxi, Ngog, Shelvey, Robinson