Saturday, 3 March 2012

Late Winner Levels Liverpool

90 minutes of utter crap from Arsenal but none of that matters now after two magic moments from Robin van Persie. The captain's two goals gave Arsenal all three points when they didn't really deserve any, as Liverpool looked rampant for the majority of the game. But the crucial difference between victory and defeat? Arsenal took their chances and Liverpool didn't, as they've often failed to do at Anfield this season. Arsenal played so bad but to grind out a win and take home the crucial three points is amazing. Half way through the game, with the way we were playing, I'd have settled for a draw. Deep down Arsenal needed the win to keep on track for 4th place but I just couldn't see it happening - Liverpool looked ready to score that second goal at any moment. So victory at the final whistle tastes even better this afternoon, as Arsenal stole a win they really didn't deserve.

The Gunners did not start the game well at all. After 17 minutes Suarez jinked into the box and fell to the ground; the referee judged that Szczesny's outstretched leg had brought the Uruguayan down but replays showed it wasn't quite so clear. It was judged to be a penalty nonetheless and Dirk Kuyt took the ball and placed it on the spot but Szczesny redeemed himself with a fantastic save to his right. The ball rebounded out to Kuyt whose second attempt was saved by Szczesny again. A heroic effort from out Polish keeper for sure.

But Arsenal couldn't capitalise on the swing of momentum and were soon behind to a stupid own goal from Laurent Koscielny. A Jordan Henderson cross was swung in from the right and looked harmless enough but Koscielny tried an acrobatic clearance and ended up sticking the ball past Szczesny and inside the post to make it 1-0 to Liverpool. It was really clumsy stuff from the Frenchman, who has had a really good year but still can't shake those odd moments of madness that cost us dearly.

Fortunately the squad didn't let Koscielny's mistake shake them, as minutes later Arsenal were level. A beauty of a cross from Sagna found van Persie in the box, whose header was too powerful for Pepe Reina to comprehend in the Liverpool goal. 1-1 and game on. It was a really nice goal and a rarity too; I'm not used to us scoring from crosses into the box and heading it home.

But that was as good as it got for Arsenal. For the rest of the game Liverpool looked likely to score at any moment. The home side hit the woodwork twice and would have surely taken the lead if it weren't for the brilliant goalkeeping skills of Szczesny. The young Pole really kept us in it. Despite not playing to the best of his abilities recently, he really upped his game today and played a blinder. Szczesny deserved the Man of the Match award for sure.

Well... that was until van Persie decided to show up in the Liverpool box in stoppage time. With 8 minutes of injury time to play (because Arteta had to go off with a concussion - hope Mikel will be alright) I was worried Liverpool would take that time to get that second goal. A goal they'd been so close to earning all game. But van Persie had other ideas. Alex Song controlled the ball in midfield and lofted a pinpoint pass into van Persie, who just managed to stay onside, before the Dutchman volleyed a stunner past Reina's inside post to make it 2-1 to Arsenal and game over. Song's pass was beautiful but van Persie's finish was vintage RVP. The strike was his first touch, a sumptuous volley from that devastating left foot of his, reminiscent of his goal against Everton earlier in the season. The captain struck the ball so hard and so fast that Reina stood no chance, even at his inside post where the Spaniard should be in the safest position. It was a phenomenal goal, worthy of winning any game. At the end of the game van Persie was awarded the Man of the Match award but the gracious captain had to share it with his goalkeeper. Both Szczesny and van Persie were the best players on the pitch for Arsenal. When the rest of the team were having an off-day (that's being kind) they elevated their performances and made it count when it mattered most. Can't ask for much more than that.

So a 2-1 win at Anfield is always something to celebrate, even more so when you look at the Premier League table this afternoon. We've narrowed the gap on Spurs in 3rd place to just 4 points - it was 10 this time last week. We've also piled on the pressure for Chelsea, who must win at West Brom this afternoon to remain in touch with us (currently 0-0 at the time of writing). The negatives from this afternoon? Mikel Arteta's concussion looked pretty serious and I've read reports he's had to go to hospital to be checked over. Hopefully our Spanish playmaker will be alright. Matters were made worse when Abou Diaby, making his return this afternoon from another long-term injury, limped off with 10 minutes left because he'd hurt himself again. I haven't heard whether its a recurrence of the injury he's just recovered from, but hopefully not. The guy has no luck where his health is concerned.

Enjoy the win fellow Gooners. Always nice to get one over the Merseysiders in red.

Thanks for reading.

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