Robin van Persie stretched his goal tally to 31 for the season as the Dutch forward inspired Arsenal to a comeback at Anfield to end Liverpool’s unbeaten run at home. Some would say the win wasn’t deserved after Liverpool squandered a penalty and dominated proceedings for the large part of the contest.
The 2-1 win for Arsenal leaves Liverpool a huge ten points behind fourth placed Arsenal who recorded their fourth successive Premier League win.
Both sides entered the weekend on a euphoric high after two huge wins, with Liverpool clinching the Carling Cup and Arsenal giving their North London rivals a pasting at the Emirates.
Liverpool begun the match making the early running only to be frustrated by the offside flag but it was Arsenal who created the best chance out of the early exchanges. A long ball from deep inside the Liverpool half found Walcott and his side foot almost had Reina worried but the Spaniard was able to palm it away.
Wojiech Szczesny wasn’t worried too much early on and the Arsenal goalkeeper was forced into using his head more, thwarting both Luis Suarez and Stewart Downing outside the area.
An intricate one-two allows Luis Suarez to skip round Szczesny only for his theatrical dive to be awarded a penalty by referee, Halsey. The Polish ‘keeper was deemed a hero following his double save from Dirk Kuyt, the miraculous stops perhaps seen as justice being served. For Kuyt, it was the Dutch striker’s second penalty miss in the Premier League this season having missed in the Merseyside derby earlier in the season.
The goal deservedly came for Liverpool on 23 minutes when a low and teasing cross from Jordan Henderson enticed Laurent Koscielny into a wayward cross, a wayward cross which sliced off his studs and into the bottom corner, a record fifth own goal of the season for the club which places them in the top of that goalscoring chart for the season.
Shortly after Koscielny’s error, Liverpool smelled blood. The Arsenal defence was carved wide open only for Henderson to be thwarted by the in-form Szczesny and Luis Suarez as the rebound fell to him, but the Uruguayan could only strike the post.
Just when it seemed least likely, Robin van Persie struck with his 30th goal of the season and only his first goal at Anfield. Bakary Sagna’s cross was pinged into perfection whilst all the Dutch forward had to do was skip past a Liverpool defender to head home the equaliser, leaving Laurent Koscielny a very relieved man.
Late into the first half saw another mazy run from Luis Suarez which allowed the Uruguayan to weave in and out of the Arsenal defence before forcing Szczesny into yet another save. Suarez was looking the most dangerous outlet for the home side and had that nestled into the net it would’ve been a contender for goal of the season as he beat four players in the space of 10 yards.
Liverpool had to do without both Daniel Agger and Steven Gerrard as Gerrard’s hamstring concern in the international friendly against Holland in midweek was too much of a worry for the Liverpool captain to start.
Carling Cup final goalscorer Dirk Kuyt entered the fray along with Jamie Carragher and Jay Spearing whilst Arsenal doubts of Thomas Vermaelen, Robin van Persie and Tomas Rosicky all made the starting eleven as Wenger looked to build on what was a superb month in the league, deserving the manager of the month accolade that he picked up.
It was Dirk Kuyt who would create the best chance for Liverpool in first half stoppage time. Just when it seemed Arsenal had escaped towards the half-time oranges it was that man, Dirk Kuyt, in a crowd of players who beat both Koscielny, Suarez and Szczesny to the ball, poking an effort goalwards on for it to trickle against the post – continuing Liverpool’s unfortunate record of striking the woodwork not only twice in this match but 21 times – the highest in the division.
Mikel Arteta’s serious head injury will be a blow for Arsenal ahead of their crucial Champions League tie against AC Milan in midweek, whether or not the severe concussion will leave the ex-Everton midfielder out for Tuesday night is another question.
Both sides were probing following the Arteta injury but with no conclusive evidence for either side to actually warrant the winning goal.
As soon as the game regained some of its tempo, it was Liverpool who emerged as the dominant force, their best chance coming from a teasing Dirk Kuyt cross. The Dutch forward tempted Martin Kelly to attack the ball but the inexperienced full back couldn’t get his feet arranged in order to convert.
Just when it seemed the pendulum was swinging the home side’s way, Pepe Reina had to cancel out Theo Walcott’s effort astonishingly with his boot following a number of deflections found the English winger’s effort goalwards.
The match looked as though it would boil down to the missed opportunities from Liverpool as both Dirk Kuyt and Stewart Downing couldn’t find Luis Suarez in the middle. Arsenal were looking wounded without Mikel Arteta and prone to conceding that vital goal, allowing the pressure of Liverpool onto them as the match continued.
Liverpool’s dominance was proven with the corner count, but still with the 13 corners to Arsenal’s zero, they couldn’t find that crucial goal in a second half which didn’t live up to the expectations the first half presented.
The crowd and the Liverpool players were becoming incensed with decisions from the linesman and you could argue they were right to do so but the telling point in the match came in the second of eight allotted minutes of injury time. A long ball from Alex Song found an onside Robin van Persie and the coolly placed left-footed volley from the Dutchman looked to have wrapped up a rather undeserved win for Arsenal and they even had a chance for a third through Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain late on.
Liverpool: Reina, Enrique, Carragher, Kelly, Skrtel, Henderson, Downing (Bellamy 88), Spearing (Carroll 90’+4), Adam, Suarez, Kuyt
Subs Not Used: Doni, Coates, Flanagan, Maxi, Shelvey
Goals: Koscielny o.g. 23’
Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Gibbs, Rosicky, Arteta (Diaby 53 (Oxlade-Chamberlain 81)), Walcott, Song, Benayoun (Gervinho 74), Van Persie
Subs Not Used: Fabianski, Jenkinson, Miquel, Chamakh
Goals: Van Persie 31’, 90’+2
Referee: Mark Halsey