Gunners fight back against Reds
Written By: Robert Halter
On a Wednesday night end of January, Liverpool posed the threat to Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium with the Reds just three points behind the Gunners, who remained a place higher in the table at sixth position. After securing a 2-0 win at Anfield back in September, the Gunners went into the game as favourites. But on five minutes, the form book was turned upside down as from a Bacary Sagna slip, Glen Johnson’s cross exposed the Gunners defence and when Daniel Sturridge had his shot blocked by Wojciech Szczesny, a quick piece of inter play by Jordan Henderson cleared the path for Luis Suarez to turn the ball into the net off a cruel deflection against Sagna. With the Gunners trailing, a razor sharp Theo Walcott forced his way into the Liverpool penalty area, a minute later, but Pepe Reina was on hand to block his shot. On eleven minutes, Suarez spearheaded another Reds attack but this time Sturridge drilled the ball wide. Within a minute, Olivier Giroud was guilty of a miss timed shot to waste a pin point accurate cross from Lukas Podolski. Seven minutes later, Walcott’s curling strike produced another fine save by Reina at full stretch. On twenty four minutes, fine movement between Santi Cazorla and then Podolski paved the way for Giroud but his effort was intercepted by Liverpool captain, Steven Gerrard, who forced the ball over. The Reds went close to increasing their advantage when a Daniel Agger header from Gerrard’s corner was hooked off the line by Podolski in the twenty sixth minute and then just before the half hour mark, Liverpool threatened again as Suarez’s strike flashed past the left post. After Agger had been fouled by Aaron Ramsey, Arsenal were forced to make a change of the injured Kieran Gibbs for Andre Santos. The free kick was then taken by Gerrard and an unmarked Agger connected firmly with a header which produced an acrobatic stop by Szczesny with less than seven minutes of normal time in the first half remaining. On forty four minutes, Stewart Downing put a ball through to Jordan Henderson and with just Szczesny to beat, he lobbed the ball fractionally over the top. Nine minutes into the second half, Walcott blazed a header over after a well placed cross from Podolski, as the Gunners pressed forward. But it was Henderson that delivered a killer blow on sixty minutes as he latched onto Sturridge’s pass before somehow finding a way through a cluster of Arsenal players and with Szczesny helpless, Henderson gained enough space to score. With the Gunners two goals down, Podolski threatened three minutes later but fired his shot wide. But Arsenal got a route back into the game, after Johnson’s foul on Walcott and when Jack Wilshere floated the free kick in, Giroud’s cushion header found the left side of the net in the sixty fifth minute. In dramatic fashion, the Gunners drew level two minutes later as Cazorla’s pass was laid off by Giroud and from inside the area, Walcott slotted the ball into the bottom left corner. The ascendancy was back with Arsenal, as Walcott went close with a fierce strike on seventy minutes. It was time for a Liverpool change as Jose Enrique took over from Sturridge. In the seventy eighth minute, Per Mertesacker put his header onto the side netting from Cazorla’s free kick following Andre Wisdom’s foul on Wilshere and from another well worked move by Arsenal, Walcott provided Podolski, who set up Cazorla, whose shot brushed the face of the goal. On eighty four minutes, a neat touch by Walcott was met by a low stinging shot from Giroud that was kept out at full stretch by Reina. Although at the death, it took a match saving stop by Szczesny to keep out Suarez’s low drive in the area to rescue a point for Arsenal, after they had fought back to level terms with Liverpool.