LIVERPOOL (AFP) – A bloodied and bandaged Martin Skrtel headed home a last-gasp 97th-minute equaliser to earn Liverpool a 2-2 draw against Arsenal in the Premier League at Anfield on Sunday.
Having bossed the first half, Liverpool went ahead through Philippe Coutinho, only for goals from Mathieu Debuchy and Olivier Giroud to leave Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal on the brink of a smash-and-grab victory.
But Giroud’s accidental kick to Skrtel’s head led to nine minutes of stoppage time and the tattooed Slovakian centre-back claimed his revenge with a memorable header in front of the Kop.
“It was an outstanding performance. Our passing and movement on the pitch, which is terrible, was superb,” said Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers.
“At half-time we asked for more of the same with the same movement and then we showed great character to fight back from 2-1 down with 10 men.”
But though the goal – Skrtel’s first of the season – gave Liverpool’s fans some much-needed Christmas cheer, it did little to improve their team’s standing in the table following a run of only two wins in nine games.
Rodgers’s side, who had Fabio Borini sent off, are now 17 points below leaders Chelsea and nine points below the top four, while Arsenal trail the Champions League places by four points.
Wenger, whose side had capitulated 5-1 on their previous visit to Anfield in February, said: “It was maybe a fair result, but we are disappointed to give a goal away with a free header from a corner.
“It’s disappointing that we didn’t even jump. You want everybody to be focused on the corner.”
With Liverpool fielding seven midfielders in a 3-4-3 formation, which saw Raheem Sterling reprise his role as a ‘false nine’, it was unsurprising to see the hosts dominate possession from kick-off.
Steven Gerrard curled a free-kick wide in the early stages and Adam Lallana drilled a left-foot effort narrowly over after skilfully spinning onto a pass from Lazar Markovic.
After fielding a tame effort from Coutinho, Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny produced a decisive stop, spreading himself to thwart Markovic, who had been freed to run at goal by Gerrard’s flick.
Markovic also whipped a first-time shot over the bar from a Sterling pass, before the breakthrough arrived in the 45th minute.
After Giroud conceded possession, Jordan Henderson played a pass into the feet of Coutinho, who threw Debuchy off-balance before drilling a low shot into the bottom-left corner.
There had been a sense of inevitability about the goal, but barely a minute later, Arsenal silenced the Kop by equalising with their first attempt at goal.
Alexis Sanchez’s right-wing free-kick was half-cleared, Mathieu Flamini kept the ball alive, and Debuchy climbed at the back post to head home via a deflection off Skrtel.