By Randy Osae
A pair of staggering strikes from Van Persie and Robbie Keane canceled out each other as Arsenal were made to hold on for a mere but fair point by a battling Liverpool and perhaps – the talk of the match – Adebayor’s sending off.
In the end, Arsenal’s title ambitions were not exactly intact as to plans, the eight-point gap remains and could be more should Chelsea win on Monday. But Arsene Wenger’s side can take good value of the outcome, because the reds looked poised since equalizing and Adebayor’s sending off after a second booking could have worsened matters.
The only change from Arsenal’s starting XI was Nasri’s welcoming at the expense of Diaby.
The opening minutes were very gritty and saw several soft touches and passes. But the visitors were the first to hit the target through Gerard’s low drive after Robbie Keane’s lay-off with his back to goal.
Arsenal responded with a swinging Adebayor header after a neat cross from Sagna. The game began to balance and both teams looked more aimed in attack.
And Van Persie utilized his brilliance to put Arsenal in pole position. Samir Nasri had sent a looping ball from the half-way line and a targeted Van Persie chested, and dragged it past Carragher and Agger before firing it home with his weaker foot.
That goal ignited the game’s competitively as Liverpool started moves to pick up themselves. On several occasions, Manuel Almunia was called out of his box to clear an offside-trapped long ball which had beaten Djourou and Gallas’ alert.
Arsenal seemed to be containing Liverpool’s menace until Agger booted a heavy clearance from the visitors’ end. Robbie Keane then out-ran Arsenal’s center-backs and smashed past Almunia from about 15 yards out.
It was a sumptuous response to both Van Persie’s remarkable effort earlier and the Arsenal crowd who jeered every touch the former Spurs striker made on the ball.
Liverpool nearly completed a heart-breaking turn around when Steven Gerard was left unmarked with a left-footed tap-in to do, but the reds’ skipper missed a sitter for once.
In an attempt to win back possession and spur Arsenal onto a counter attack before half-time, Fabregas wounded his knee in a clash with Alonso. Diaby replaced the Spaniard for the second half as Liverpool made their gain of momentum clear.
The reds’ advantage to take the initiative was helped by Adebayor’s sending off on 62 minutes for two similar challenges. To be fair, the Togolese’s first booking was debatable but the second which cost Arsenal had little arguments after he used his armed with his opponent.
The home crowd did their best to inspire their side – booing referee Howard Webb and every Liverpool possession till the end of the game while cheering on Arsenal’s rare advances to find an unlikely winner.
Diaby, Van Persie and especially Nasri made efforts with Song playing the Fabregas role of assisting from the middle. But Arsenal were obviously toothless as better opportunities went Liverpool’s way.
Daniel Agger’s thunderous strike from long-range brushed off the post’s upright and Nabil El Zhar’s header went just wide. Indeed, both chances looked net-bound on travel as Arsenal narrowly nursed their point.