Arsenal rally secures Liverpool draw
LONDON (AFP) – Two goals in the space of three minutes allowed Arsenal to share the points in a 2-2 Premier League draw with Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday.
Liverpool had appeared on course for a memorable victory after Luis Suarez and Jordan Henderson had both taken advantage of some terrible defending by the home side.
But Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott were both on target directly after the hour mark.
The result did little to enhance either side’s European qualification prospects and both clubs remain adrift of the Europa League spot as well as the Champions League places.
Both had faced lower league opposition at the weekend in the fourth round of the FA Cup, with Arsenal winning 3-2 at Championship side Brighton on Saturday and Liverpool losing at Oldham of third-tier League One by the same scoreline a day later.
Not surprisingly perhaps, Liverpool had been the busier club in the transfer market in the run up to the game and clinched the ú8.5m signing of Brazilian midfielder Philippe Coutinho from Inter Milan, although the 20-year-old was not involved in this game.
Arsenal, by contrast, were waiting to discover if they could agree a late deal with Barcelona for forward David Villa.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger made six changes; his Liverpool counterpart Brendan Rodgers, seven.
The supporters in the away end also had a comment about Arsenal’s ticket prices with a banner that read: ‘62-euro a ticket: a working-class sport? Football without fans is nothing’.
Those supporters were in a better mood within five minutes however when Suarez fired Liverpool ahead.
Arsenal had only themselves to blame however as a slip from Bacary Sagna had made them vulnerable in the first place and Thomas Vermaelen made a mess of a seemingly straightforward chance to clear.
That let in Daniel Sturridge at the back post but although Wojciech Szczesny was able to parry the shot that followed Arsenal again failed to react, allowing Suarez to find the net via a deflection off Sagna.
Arsenal almost equalised straight away but Pepe Reina pulled off a fine save to deny Walcott and Giroud fired wide after Sturridge had also failed to hit the target at the other end having been set up by a superb pass with the outside of his boot from Suarez.
Walcott was again foiled by Reina as the Liverpool goalkeeper dived to deflect a curling effort but Arsenal’s defensive deficiencies returned when a poor pass from Per Mertesacker put them needlessly under pressure and Lukas Podolski had to clear Daniel Agger’s header of the line from a corner.
Arsenal were forced into a defensive change when Andre Santos replaced the injured Kieran Gibbs and Szczesny soon had to make a diving save to keep out another Agger header, this time from a free-kick.
Liverpool went 2-0 ahead on the hour mark through Henderson, who was able to muscle his way past Mertesacker and Santos and beat Szczesny with the help of a deflection off Aaron Ramsey.
Arsenal needed a response and Giroud pulled a goal back almost straight away with a firm header from Wilshere’s free-kick.
Then the Frenchman set up Walcott for a blistering finish from the right of the box; Arsenal had required just seven minutes to draw level.
Reina had to dive to tip a low Giroud drive round a post but the France forward headed over from the corner.
Suarez almost secured victory for Liverpool, failing to hit the target two minutes from time before seeing a shot saved by Szczesny.