Arsenal thwarted as Skrtel’s late header clinches draw for Liverpool
18:10 21 December 2014
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Martin Skrtel’s injury-time equaliser denied Arsenal their third straight victory as 10-man Liverpool snatched a 2-2 draw that was the least they deserved at Anfield.
The Gunners were second best for most of the game, but they still came from behind to cancel out Philippe Coutinho’s opener with goals from Mathieu Debuchy and Olivier Giroud.
However, Skrtel – whose head injury early in the second half resulted in nine minutes of injury time – leapt to head the equaliser in the sixth of those minutes and ensure honours ended even.
Liverpool dominated possession in the first half, with Adam Lallana, Raheem Sterling and Coutinho repeatedly exploiting gaps left by the sluggish Gunners midfield.
However, the home side rarely managed to test Wojciech Szczesny, as Lallana, Steven Gerrard and Lazar Markovic all fired opportunities over the bar.
The Arsenal goalkeeper was finally called into action 10 minutes before half-time, rushing out to foil the dangerous Markovic with his legs after misdirected clearances from both Calum Chambers and Danny Welbeck.
Liverpool finally gained the reward they deserved just before the break – yet, in an astonishing end to the first half, they were pegged back within 90 seconds.
When the visitors gave the ball away on the left, Jordan Henderson scampered inside to set up Coutinho, who skipped neatly away from Debuchy and drilled low off the post and into the bottom corner.
But Arsenal responded in injury time as the home side failed to clear a free-kick and Mathieu Flamini headed the ball back across for Debuchy, who got above Skrtel to nod into the net.
The pattern of the game remained unchanged after the restart, with the Reds controlling possession but failing to hit the target as chances came and went for Coutinho, Lucas and Gerrard.
And they paid the price on 64 minutes as Arsenal again scored against the run of play, with Kieran Gibbs motoring down the left to find Giroud, who played a one-two with Santi Cazorla and tucked in the return at the near post.
Liverpool’s best opportunity to restore parity fell to Lucas, who speared just wide from close range after Henderson had teed him up 15 minutes from time.
Reds boss Brendan Rodgers threw on two forwards – Borini and Rickie Lambert – in an attempt to salvage a point, and the Italian almost equalised with a header that Szczesny tipped over the bar.
But Borini then damaged his team’s chances as he picked up two yellow cards in quick succession – one for dissent, the second for fouling Cazorla – and left Liverpool down to 10 men.
However, the depleted home side continued to press in added time and they claimed a share of the spoils when Szczesny turned Gerrard’s effort behind and Skrtel arrived late to power in a header from the corner.
Arsenal: Szczesny; Chambers, Debuchy, Mertesacker, Gibbs; Flamini; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla; Sanchez (Monreal 90), Giroud (Coquelin 82), Welbeck.