Barclays Premier League

Liverpool 1-2 Arsenal


 

Goal mad Robin Van Persie was at it again for the Gunners as he headed past Reina to level for Arsenal just after half an hour

 

By Adam Higgins
Chief Football Editor from Anfield

 

A late Robin Van Persie volley gave Arsenal a dramatic late victory over Liverpool in an eventful spectacle to end the Reds' unbeaten home record in the Premier League.

The Gunners captain netted his 30th and 31st goals of the season in all competitions this season as the in-form striker continued his single-handed goalscoring spree to help his side change the game around after Liverpool's Dirk Kuyt saw a penalty saved by Szczesny and defender Laurent Koscielny had turned into his own net to give the home side the lead. But a bullet header and a controlled finish made sure the points were Arsenal's as they won a fourth match on the spin leaving their opponents a massive ten points behind the top four teams in the table.

Liverpool made four changes from the Carling Cup final winning eleven of last Sunday with the most significant change being a recall for Jay Spearing in midfield to replace captain Steven Gerrard who was withdrawn in the first half of England's friendly defeat by the Netherlands on Wednesday night with a hamstring problem. Daniel Agger cracked a rib in the Wembley shootout victory over Cardiff City and missed out meaning a first outing in sixteen Premier League matches for vice-skipper Jamie Carragher. Glen Johnson was still out with the injury occurrence which forced him to pull out of international duty in midweek while Carroll was dropped to the bench with Martin Kelly and Dirk Kuyt coming in for starts.

The recently named manager of the month for February- Arsene Wenger- named an unchanged team from the one that astonishingly came back to outclass North London rivals Tottenham last weekend. Van Persie and Rosicky were passed fit after suffering from niggles during the week as was Vermaelen, who featured for Belgium in their draw against Greece in midweek against the wishes of the Arsenal manager. Midfielder Aaron Ramsey remained absent with an ankle injury. Yossi Benayoun lined up against his old club for the first time since leaving in May 2010.

Before kick-off, captain Steven Gerrard did come onto the pitch in his matchday suit to lift their record eighth Carling Cup infront of the home supporters. Both sides are accustomed to playing Champions League football but only one, if any, are can grab the fourth spot this season but realistically both still in the chase for finishing in the final position with which they would need to qualify to make the group stages. In addition, both clubs would also need it more for revenue reasons off the field. While Henderson and Oxlade-Chamberlain- on opposite sides in the game- were enjoying themselves this week as they were filmed on England Under 21 duty in the team hotel having a kick-up challenge with a tennis ball.

The home side were on the front foot early on having a lot of the ball. Having said that, Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina was the first to be worked out of the two shotstoppers when Walcott latched onto a long diagonal pass from Vermaelen and the winger- making his 100th Premier League start- couldn't add to his five league goals- two of those coming last Sunday against Spurs- as his shot from an imploding angle was saved by Reina who recovered on the second attempt.

 

? DID YOU KNOW ?

Liverpool have not won any of the Premier League matches that captain Steven Gerrard has started this season.

 

The enterprising start from both sides continued in the first fifteen minutes as some superb covering from Sagna denied Downing a chance to make something happen coming in from the left hand side while a last-ditch tackle from Koscielny stopped Kuyt's pass from reaching Luis Suarez- who has scored twice in three starts since returning from his nine-match ban but has only fashioned one Anfield goal in the league since the opening day of the season- coming against QPR in September. There was the opportunity for Liverpool to take the lead on 18 minutes when Suarez was allegedly brought down by Arsenal goalkeeper Wojech Szczesny, who conceded a penalty last weekend for a foul on Gareth Bale in the North London derby, in the opinion of referee Mark Halsey who was stood on the edge of the box with players seemingly blocking his view.

Suarez had played a one-two with Kuyt and softly went to ground looking for the spotkick with the decision perhaps influenced by the harmonious scream from the Liverpool fans behind the goal. Szczesny tried to play mind games with the taker Kuyt, who scored as a substitute at Wembley in the Carling Cup final against Cardiff, but the Dutchman, who missed from the spot in the Merseyside derby at Everton in October, was thwarted by the Pole and reacted incredibly to get back up to push away Kuyt's tame follow-up.

Although Liverpool had the lead in fortutious circumstances five minutes later when Spearing's vision picked out a fine pass to Henderson pushed out on the right hand side and his cross was turned in by the sorry Laurent Koscielny- who also scored an own-goal at Blackburn in September- at the near post. While goalkeeper Szczesny- who starred for Poland in their 0-0 draw with Portugal in a friendly in midweek- made another fantastic save as Kuyt's lovely right-footed flick pass found Henderson whose low sidefooter was kept out one-handed by the 21-year old in goal for Arsenal while Suarez couldn't believe that he followed up to hit the post under pressure from Koscielny- who incidentally was dismissed on his Premier League debut on this ground last season in the opening day 1-1 draw between the sides.

The Gunners came back with a leveller on 31 minutes when Bacary Sagna whipped a cross in from the right and Van Persie got the wrong side of Carragher from a Liverpool point of view and the talisman born to score goals produced a bullet header into the net. The Dutchman came up trumps once more for Arsenal who hadn't carried too much of a threat in the first period. The home side looked to move within four points of Arsenal with a win as Kenny Dalglish- in his 450th top-flight match as a manager- was barking out orders to his players. Suarez did a fantastic piece of play delicately moving in and out of the Arsenal players with lovely balance and was kept out by Szcesny. Skrtel couldn't make it a personal three goals in three games when he headed over from a corner. In first half stoppage time, Kuyt hit the post after a good run across the defender from Adam's fizzed ground-level cross as Enrique had held the play and drove the defender in as it wasn't to be Kuyt's day.

There was a long stoppage at the start of the second period when former Everton midfielder Mikel Arteta was stretchered off with severe concussion and nasty knock to his jaw after an accidental off-the-ball clash with Jordan Henderson. The Arsenal man received treatment on the pitch as Abou Diaby replaced him and this was to be further bad news for Wenger ahead of the return leg of the Champions League knock-out round tie against AC Milan on Tuesday. While Liverpool are in action against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light next Saturday.

Arsenal improved after the break seeing more of the play and substitute Abou Diaby, the French midfielder back after three months out injured, breathing some new life into the match as he dictated the middle of the park at times. Vermaelen also required some tender loving care from physio Gary Lewin when he was taken out by his own goalkeeper when he claimed a cross from last week's Carling Cup final man of the match Stewart Downing as he looked for his first league assist for the Reds by aiming to supply for Dirk Kuyt. The first yellow card was soon out in the direction of Vermaelen once he had returned to the pitch after he was late on Luis Suarez.

Skipper for the day Jamie Carragher, who had broken up what was a formidable defensive partnership forged by Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger over the last couple of months, was in a corridor of uncertainty when Rosicky charged into the box and hooked across the face of the goal and the slightest of touches from the former England defender took it off the Arsenal player inside the six-yard area although a heavier touch would have seen him produce a duplicate of Koscielny's mistake at the same end in the first half.

 

? DID YOU KNOW ?

The Gunners have conceded more goals at Anfield (37 now) than at any other Premier League away ground since the inaugural season in 1992/93.

 

It was a different situation entirely when the two sides met here last season in the Premier League's opening weekend when a Liverpool side- managed by Roy Hodgson and containing Fernando Torres and Javier Mascherano- were denied late on by an own-goal from their own keeper Reina after David Ngog, now at Bolton, thumped the Reds into the lead. Debutant Joe Cole, who had looked to resurrect his career by moving to Anfield after losing his way at Chelsea, was dismissed for a two-footed lunge. While Arsenal looked strong and were the bookie's favourites for winning trophies and challenging for the title with some new signings such as Chamakh and Koscielny as well as youngster Jack Wilshere appearing for the first time.

Liverpool, who beat a beleaguered Arsenal 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium back in August through an own goal from Aaron Ramsey and a tap-in from substitute Suarez, gained some momentum and Kuyt was in the thick of the action once more this time providing a superb delivery, similar to the cross he made for Huntelaar's header for Holland in their 3-2 win over England at Wembley three days ago, but full-back Kelly made a mess of it and couldn't stick it in at the back post as Arsenal survived.

Reina made an important save as it was a let-off for Liverpool as a Kieran Gibbs pull-back to Walcott deflected off both Carragher and Skrtel before the Spaniard saved with his legs. It was the case of the same old story at Anfield where Liverpool, who had drawn eight league games at home so far this campaign, had come up against goalkeepers in inspired form while missing penalties, chances and being frustrated by the woodwork.

Kuyt and Henderson both escaped punishment after bellowing furiously at assistant referee Ron Ganfield after an offside call went against Liverpool late on although leniency was shown by referee Mark Halsey who gave them a short lecture before giving them a "clear off" signal. There were to be eight added minutes following the Arteta injury early in the second period. It was late and great for the Gunners, unbeaten on their previous four visits to Anfield, as Song's lofted pass was finished with aplomb by the chief marksman Van Persie as the Premier League's leading scorer volleyed in left-footed to put him back in the headlines and turn the game around.

As Liverpool tried to conjure a late response, sending on Carroll for Spearing straight after the goal, it was one of Arsenal's replacements Oxlade-Chamberlain, who came on for Diaby who was a substituted substitute with no obvious injury concerns, who almost put them out of sight with a swirling effort which flew inches over the bar with the Reds' unbeaten home record on the line at this point. This gave the Gunners' hopes of Champions League football next season a real boost after a tricky period for the club while putting a spanner in the works of Liverpool's own chances of finishing in fourth place.

See what happened elsewhere in the Premier League today here

 

ANALYSIS
Adam Higgins
The Football Site- Chief Football Editor

"It was an interesting game- one in which Liverpool looked to have control of for a lot of the first half. They were playing much better, had some decent opportunities- none bigger than the penalty and follow-up from Dirk Kuyt which was never a spotkick at all in truth. It took a huge stroke of good fortune for the way the goal came about in the end but they deserved that bit of luck for the way they had been dictating. But once Arsenal got themselves going after a slow start, it was always their game to win and they looked comfortable. On balance of play in the second half, you have to say that the Gunners were more likely to score simply because of the goal threat of Robin Van Persie who excelled once again. The second goal was exquisite and he carried Arsenal through a tough match yet again for the umpteenth occasion this season. The defeat was very harsh on Liverpool and the strains of last Sunday's Carling Cup final look to have set in here but they deserved something from it. It is a massive win for Arsenal though in their challenge for third place in the table with Spurs stuttering of late."


Saturday 3rd March 2012

Barclays Premier League

Anfield

Liverpool 1-2 Arsenal                                              KO 12:45pm             (HT 1-1)

Kuyt 18 missed pen    Van Persie 32, 90+3
Koscielny 23 (og)

 

Liverpool:  25 Reina- 6/10, 34 Kelly- 6/10, 23 Carragher (C)- 7/10, 37 Skrtel- 6.5/10, 3 Enrique- 6.5/10, 14 Henderson- 7/10, 20 Spearing- 7/10 (Carroll 90+3- 0.5/10), 26 Adam- 6.5/10, 19 Downing- 6.5/10 (Bellamy 88- 1.5/10), 7 Suarez- 6.5/10, 18 Kuyt- 6/10.

Subs not used:  32 Doni, 16 Coates, 38 Flanagan, 11 Maxi, 33 Shelvey

Booked:      None

 

Arsenal:  13 Szczesny- 7.5/10, 3 Sagna- 7/10, 5 Vermaelen- 6.5/10, 6 Koscielny- 6.5/10, 28 Gibbs- 6/10, 17 Song- 7.5/10, 8 Arteta- 6/10 (Diaby 53- 4/10) (Oxlade-Chamberlain 80- 2.5/10), 7 Rosicky- 6/10, 14 Walcott- 7/10, 10 Van Persie (C)- 9/10, 30 Benayoun- 6/10 (Gervinho 74- 3.5/10).

Subs not used:  21 Fabianski, 25 Jenkinson, 49 Miquel, 29 Chamakh

Booked:      Vermaelen (63)

 

My Man of the Match:    Robin Van Persie (Arsenal)- Rating 9/10

My Poorest Performer of the Match:    Yossi Benayoun (Arsenal)- Rating 6/10

 

 

Referee: Mark Halsey (Lancashire)- 8.5/10
Attendance: 44,922

 

 

Match Facts

Possession: Liverpool- 54%                  Arsenal- 46%

Shots: Liverpool- 12                     Arsenal- 10

Shots on target: Liverpool- 4                     Arsenal- 7

Shots off target: Liverpool- 8                     Arsenal- 3

Corners: Liverpool- 12                  Arsenal- 0

Fouls: Liverpool- 11                   Arsenal- 9

Offside: Liverpool- 6                     Arsenal- 1

Assists: Liverpool- Henderson               Arsenal- Sagna, Song

 

 


Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish

"I thought we were the better team throughout and I would have been disappointed with a point let alone none and I think anyone in the ground or watching at home would agree that we dominated. I don't think they did enough to deserve three points. If you judge it today on the player's performances and their abilties in this match then you would say they have come along way. People will say that this is because of the Carling Cup last weekend but I don't think so. They were brilliant our players. We haven't scored enough goals at home and we can't hide away from that fact. It doesn't matter how good Van Persie was or is we need to concentrate on ourselves. We have ironically won the cup on penalties last week and missed another today with Dirk (Kuyt) a bit unlucky. Steven (Gerrard) shouldn't be too long back- Glen Johnson won't be back for a week or so. We will take our time- I can take some positives but at the end of the day we have lost the match."


Click here for the thoughts of Reds boss Kenny Dalglish afterwards

 


Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger

"What can I say about Robin (Van Persie) that hasn't been said already. We needed him to do what he did today to know he is a world class centre-forward. He was the difference again today with his two goals. We had some big problems in the first half as we didn't have any rhythm in the game and we didn't play our football. To be fair, Liverpool dominated for most of the game but we showed that you don't have to boss the game to win the game necessarily. We improved at the start of the second half. The reason we brought off Mikel (Arteta) was precautionary to be on the safe side. We don't know the extent of the injury as yet but we are hopeful of receiving some good news from the hospital where he has taken them. The goalkeeper made some key saves for us today but the chance at the end that fell to Robin (Van Persie), I knew we could rely on him to put the chance in the back of the net."


Click here for the post-match interview with Gunners boss Arsene Wenger



Click here for the pre-match thoughts of Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp

Click here to hear Arsenal's Robin Van Persie after the game

Click here to listen to the thoughts of Arsenal's penalty save hero Szczesny

 

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