Van Persie Strengthens Gunners Grip On Fourth Place

Robin van Persie celebrates scoring Arsenal's equaliser

Robin van Persie celebrates scoring Arsenal's equaliser

Robin van Persie left Liverpool facing up to another year without Champions League football by scoring both goals as Arsenal secured a crucial 2-1 victory at Anfield.
The Arsenal captain took his tally for the season to 31 goals in all competition after a Laurent Koscielny own goal had given the home side the first-half lead.
But on a day when Arsenal moved 10 points clear of Liverpool – who have a game in hand – the win was rendered bitter-sweet by injuries to Mikel Arteta and Abou Diaby, who both appear highly unlikely to be fit to face AC Milan in the Champions League this week.
Despite the shared joy of both clubs last weekend, when Liverpool’s Carling Cup triumph eclipsed Arsenal’s stunning fightback to defeat Spurs 5-2 at the Emirates, the priority for Kenny Dalglish and Arsene Wenger continues to revolve around Champions League qualification.
Last Sunday’s victories will only end up as footnotes to a disappointing campaign if Anfield or the Emirates is denied the prestige and financial uplift of hosting Champions League fixtures next season.
There is a danger that both clubs will be outsiders looking in on Europe’s premier competition next term, however, which is why this game was in the no-lose bracket for the pair of them.
Arsenal started brightly, though, and they carved out the first chance of the game when Arteta picked out Theo Walcott with a sublime 40-yard pass.
Walcott, whose two goals against Spurs last week proved decisive, pulled away from Jose Enrqiue before seeing his volley well saved by Pepe Reina.
From that point on, however, Liverpool began to dominate and Arsenal’s recurring defensive shortcomings threatened to undermine Wenger’s team once again.
None of their back four were convincing and while Koscielny cannot be faulted for effort, is he really an international centre-half?
Too often, his indecision and poor sense of positioning opened the door for Liverpool to test goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.
Stewart Downing failed to capitalise on an early chance, when Szczesny was forced to clear after Koscielny had lost Luis Suarez. With the ball at his feet and the goal gaping from 30 yards, Downing mis-kicked his effort at goal.
Liverpool should have opened the scoring moments later, though, when referee Mark Halsey awarded a penalty, after Suarez had gone down under a Szczesny challenge.
In live play, it appeared a certain penalty, but endless television replays – hardly helpful to Halsey who has one chance to get it right – suggested there had been no contact.
Still, the debate over whether or not it was a penalty proved pointless when Dirk Kuyt had his spot kick and follow-up shot brilliantly saved by Szczesny,
Arsenal’s goalkeeper was helpless on 23 minutes, though, when the hapless Koscielny gave Liverpool the lead by slicing Jordan Henderson’s cross into his own net from six yards.
Two minutes later, Arsenal had the woodwork to thank for keeping the score at 1-0 when Suarez’s effort from close range struck the post.
Having been outplayed for the majority of the first-half, though, Arsenal silenced the crowd on 30 minutes when Van Persie netted his 30th goal of the season in all competitions.
Bacary Sagna was given too much time and space to cross from the right and Van Persie escaped the desperate challenge of Jamie Carragher to head past Reina.
Liverpool responded well and Suarez shot just wide after wriggling past three defenders on 40 minutes.
The home side then hit the woodwork again in first-half stoppage time when Kuyt directed Charlie Adam’s cross onto the far post.
Liverpool had every right to feel frustrated at their inability to take the lead, but they certainly had chances to add to the scoring.
Arsenal, in contrast, struggled to worry Reina beyond Van Persie’s headed goal and their hopes of threatening in the second-half suffered a blow when Arteta was carried off.
The former Everton midfielder received five minutes of treatment following his collision with Henderson before being replaced by Diaby.
The delay caused by Arteta’s injury appeared to take the edge off the game, with chances after the break much fewer than in the first-half.
Liverpool defender Martin Kelly scuffed a chance at the near post midway through the second-half, while Walcott wasted a good chance when he directed a tame header at goal from Tomas Rosicky’s cross.
Arsenal then suffered their second injury blow when Diaby limped off on 81 minutes after lasting less than half an hour of his comeback game.
But with the fourth official signalling eight minutes of stoppage time, Arsenal sensed a late winner and Van Persie stunned Anfield by volleying Alex Song’s pinpoint chip pass past Reina on 92 minutes.
It was probably undeserved, but the win could be the most significant of Arsenal’s season.



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