Sparks Fly as Liverpool Dent Arsenal’s Title Hopes

April 18, 2011 Updated: October 1, 2015

PENALIZED: Arsenal's Ivorian midfielder Emmanuel Eboue (L) collides with Liverpool's Brazilian player Lucas Leiva (2nd L) to concede a last-minute penalty during the Premiership football match at the Emirates. (Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images)
PENALIZED: Arsenal's Ivorian midfielder Emmanuel Eboue (L) collides with Liverpool's Brazilian player Lucas Leiva (2nd L) to concede a last-minute penalty during the Premiership football match at the Emirates. (Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images)
Dirk Kuyt’s disputed penalty in the 102nd minute gave Liverpool a 1-1 draw at Arsenal. The Gunners had felt assured of the three points when Robin van Persie put them ahead from the spot after 96 minutes. Liverpool skipper Jamie Carragher had earlier been knocked out by a clash of heads with fellow Liverpool defender John Flanagan. The time it took for Carragher to receive medical attention and be stretchered from the field meant eight minutes of injury time was scheduled.

Managers Arsene Wenger and Kenny Dalglish exchanged angry words as the final whistle was blown. Wenger explained, “We felt hard done by because time was over by three minutes”. However, it was partially the fault of Wenger’s own players whose extravagant celebrations following the goal resulted in more time being added on. Indeed, van Persie received a yellow card for “over-celebrating.”

The dropped points leave Arsenal six adrift of Manchester United at the top of the league, having now played the same number of games.

Arsenal started the game impressively as it so often does, and with only four minutes gone Abou Diaby should have done better when he headed a Samir Nasri free kick wide of the target. Then on 12 minutes a lively Theo Walcott hit a fierce swerving drive that Pepe Reina couldn’t hold. However there was nobody following in to take advantage of the rebound.

Just four minutes later Reina was beaten to a perfectly delivered van Persie free kick by Laurent Koscielny. The Gunners centre back made good contact but the ball crashed against the crossbar. The drama was not over though, as Theo Walcott collected the rebound only to see his shot blocked by the arm of Dirk Kuyt.

Referee Andre Marriner was in a good position and obviously must have felt that it was not deliberate handball with Kuyt being unable to get his arm out of the way. The Arsenal faithful disagreed, and certainly we have all seen penalties awarded in similar circumstances.

Van Persie did have the ball in the Liverpool net after 25 minutes but the offside flag had already been raised. A few minutes later, Luis Suarez gave the ball away and let in van Persie and Cesc Fabregas who exchanged passes in lightening fashion, only for the Arsenal skipper to drag his shot wide. The first half continued in like manner with Arsenal enjoying most of the possession and the visitors happy to go in at the break still on level terms.

Second Half More Even

Liverpool showed more intent as the second period got underway and in the 49th minute a Suarez shot from the edge of the box flew just the wrong side of the post.

On 66 minutes the Uruguayan gave returning Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny his first real test of the night with an angled shot, but the young Pole proved up to the task.

Suarez had two more efforts in normal time from around the edge of the penalty area, but did not really connect well with either of them and Szczesny was able to save comfortably both times.

As the game drew to a close Arsenal reasserted its earlier authority and launched a final push for the points. Pepe Reina was called on to save from both Robin van Persie and substitute Nicklas Bendtner in quick succession. With the clock showing 96 minutes Fabregas went down under the challenge of the inexperienced Jay Spearing. Van Persie, making his 150th Premier League appearance for Arsenal, sent Reina the wrong way and The Emirates erupted.

With the restart delayed by ecstatic Arsenal celebrations Liverpool had time for a last attack to try and salvage a point. Lucas Leiva was brought down centimetres outside the area. Suarez hammered the free kick into a highly congested penalty box; the ball rebounded to Lucas who went down under the challenge of Emmanuel Eboue. The Arsenal man certainly made contact with the back of Lucas but the contact was light and Lucas went to ground all too easily. Nonetheless, the referee pointed to the spot and Arsenal’s protests were to no avail. It was a high-pressure moment if ever there was one, but Dirk Kuyt calmly dispatched an emphatic kick into the back of the net.

Liverpool will argue that, considering their injury problems, they put in a dogged performance, more than holding their own in the second half, and deserved their point. Kenny Dalglish told the EPL website after the game: "This result epitomised the commitment of the players. We had two young boys at full-back, we lost two players with injury and everything was going against us but we remained committed to the end."