Premier League – Liverpool frustrated by 10-man Arsenal

Ten-man Arsenal held on for a point to frustrate Premier League leaders Liverpool in a 1-1 draw at the Emirates Stadium.

FOOTBALL 2008-9 Premier League Arsenal v Liverpool Robbie Keane - 0

Arsenal took the lead through Robin van Persie‘s brilliant goal on 24 minutes before Robbie Keane restored parity with an equally impressive strike just before half-time.

Emmanuel Adebayor was dismissed for a contentious second booking midway through the second period, leaving Arsenal to play the final half hour of the match with a man less.

But a stubborn performance from Arsene Wenger’s side saw them frustrate the visitors to claim a point that moves them within a point of Manchester United in fourth place.

Despite the result, Liverpool still managed to extend their lead to two points at the top of the table, although Chelsea can topple them off their perch with victory at Everton on Monday night.

In front of a packed house, Arsenal started the game nervily yet it was the hosts who opened the scoring against the run of play on 24 minutes.

The goal was all about the quality of Van Persie, whose control after having been picked out by a long Samir Nasri pass was simply exquisite. His finish was no less impressive.

The striker took the ball down on his chest before spinning away from his marker and firing an unstoppable shot past Jose Reina at his near post. The fluency of his movement and power of the shot evoked memories of another of north London’s favourite Dutchmen, Dennis Bergkamp.

The goal gave the hosts renewed confidence while it was the turn of Liverpool, who had previously looked composed, to look rattled.

But, much like Arsenal, Liverpool found the back of the net on the break and when it was least expected.

And what an equaliser it was, Keane nearly breaking the roof of the net with a thunderous first-time hit after having run on to a long punt downfield by Alvaro Arbeloa.

It was sweet moment for the former Tottenham player, who had been subjected to jeers from the home crowd from the first whistle.

The porosity of the Arsenal defence was clear for all to see, Johan Djourou having let the ball bounce over his head before Keane ran onto it, and Liverpool sensed their moment.

With time running out before the half-time whistle, the league leaders could have turned the game on its head with a second goal, but Manuel Almunia got a crucial fingertip to Dirk Kuyt‘s well-struck drive across the face of goal.

Arsenal looked shaken, and when skipper Cesc Fabregas emerged from a tackle moments later clutching his knee, an injury that forced him out of the game, their troubles were only compounded.

Abou Diaby replaced Fabregas after the break and without the Spaniard lining up against them for the second half, Liverpool visibly grew in confidence.

Lucas Leiva brought a good stop out of Manuel Almunia with a crisp drive just minutes after the restart as Liverpool upped the tempo and went in search of a winner.

And following the dismissal of Adebayor – for what referee Howard Webb perceived as an over-the-top challenge on Arbeloa but could have been construed as nothing more than an attempt at shielding the ball – the tide turned in the Reds’ favour.

But despite the man advantage, Liverpool failed to capitalise.

Daniel Agger, with a long-range effort, and substitute Nabi El Zhar, with a header, both went close as time ran out, but Arsenal put in a spirited display to win an unlikely point given the circumstances.

Mike Hytner / Eurosport