Arsenal drew with league leaders Liverpool as the game unhinged on Emmanuel Adebayor’s controversial red card early in the second half. In the first half Robbie Keane had canceled out Van Persie’s goal while captain Fabregas suffered a medial knee ligament injury.
Manager Rafael Benitez was unavailable for the match as he recovered from surgery to remove kidney stones so Sammy Lee took charge. However their game plan took a hitch before the match as Mascherano was ruled out with Lucas deputising while youngster Insua came in at left back. Liverpool had one more change to make to but not involving players as they had to change their shorts because of a clash with Arsenal’s white.
Arsenal started the more confident and the more fluent but it was Gerrard who had the first chance, straight at Almunia. The Gunners pressed hard and high up the pitch denying Liverpool chance to pass the ball but in turn gave the Reds the chance to catch Arsenal with the high ball behind the defence. Robbie Keane stayed onside and fed Gerrard for the aforementioned chance.
Arsenal having particular joy down the right with Sagna and it was his cross that led to a chance for Adebayor but he couldn’t get the power. Arsenal took the game too Liverpool further, Adebayor and Van Persie working hard and it was the latter who got the break through in 24 minutes.
Samir Nasri played a 35 yard long ball to Van Persie to expertly control, turn and fire pass Reina with his right. A great goal and on the balance of things, what Arsenal deserved.
Adebayor and Keane saw yellow in which one may argue as harsh decisions. Liverpool started getting some further joy from the long ball and soon Robbie Keane (42) capitalised, outpacing Djourou and Gallas before lashing an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net.
The diagonal ball to Kuyt was also a problem and the Dutchman forced a mistake from Clichy and his ball across goal had too much pace as Gerrard stretched to hit wide. Kuyt had another chance that was tipped wide by Almunia. It ensured a nervy end to the half and one which got worse as Fabregas was taken directly off through injury.
The Gunners will have been disappointed to have let in a late goal but their pressure game could have led to the increased long balls but the Reds did try to look for it at any given moment.
Abou Diaby replaced Fabregas for the half but it was Liverpool who started the stronger with Lucas testing Almunia with a stinging drive. However the game turned a sour note as Adebayor was sent off for a second bookable challenge. The Togolese striker looking to shield the ball but in near identical fashion but with less contact to the first, led with his studs stamping. Maybe harsh and it is an area where referees must understand better form a footballing point of view.
The next period inevitably Liverpool dominated but without real adventure. Arsenal then from 70 minutes started to win second balls and looked like the team that could force a goal. Song was playing closest to Van Persie while the interchangeability between Nasri and Diaby in midfield looked threatening but the final ball was lacking.
El Zhar played one great ball to Kuyt across goal which was blocked by Almunia and the Moroccan had a chance himself on the ninety with a header flashed wide but the half served as what could been. The first period so nicely poised turned slightly heated in the second but overall lacking in endeavor.
Arsenal: Almunia, Sagna, Djourou, Gallas, Clichy, Denilson, Fabregas (Diaby 46), Song Billong, Nasri (Eboue 90), Adebayor, Van Persie.
Subs Not Used: Fabianski, Vela, Ramsey, Silvestre, Wilshere.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Agger, Insua, Kuyt, Leiva Lucas (Ngog 88), Alonso, Riera (Babel 71), Gerrard, Keane (El Zhar 81).
Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Hyypia, Benayoun, Plessis.