Theo Walcott drove home a blistering equaliser as Arsenal retrieved a two-goal deficit to earn a 2-2 draw with Liverpool from a rip-roaring Premier League dust-up at the Emirates Stadium.
Marshalled superbly at the back by the evergreen Jamie Carragher,
Liverpool were rewarded for an intelligent counter attacking strategy
that worked almost to perfection in the first hour as goals from Luis
Suarez (5) and Jordan Henderson (60) earned them a 2-0 lead aided by
some slipshod home defending.
But Arsene Wenger’s side showed off all their attacking wares in the
final 30 minutes or so as an Olivier Giroud header (64) and Walcott’s
strike (67) ensured them of a point that they were well worth after an
evening that seemed to spend much of its time raging from end to end.
Walcott was a constant thorn in Liverpool’s side in leading his team’s recovery.
He scored his 11th Premier League goal of the season here, and has
now scored in each of his last four matches in all competitions.
On a more concerning note, Arsenal remain with only one win in five outings in the Premier League since the turn of the year.
Their obvious inability to project any degree of certainty in defence
could yet cost Arsenal their place in the top four this season, no
matter how exciting they are going forward.
Liverpool continue their run of not having beaten any side in the top
10 of Premier League this season, but will manager Brendan Rodger will
probably be content with a point that keeps them three points behind
Arsenal in seventh place.
Wenger made six changes to his side from the 3-2 win at Brighton in
the FA Cup fourth round. Thomas Vermaelen recovered from an ankle injury
with Kieran Gibbs – who was replaced by Andre Santos due to a muscle
injury on 37 minutes – and Bacary Sagna returning to the full-back
berths. Jack Wilshere played alongside Aaron Ramsey in midfield.
Liverpool opted for seven alterations from the side that lost 3-2 to
Oldham in the Cup on Sunday. Pepe Reina and Glen Johnson returned from
injury with captain Steven Gerrard starting in midfield. Stewart Downing
was back for Liverpool with Jose Enrique named among the substitutes.
Liverpool benefited from some wretched defending by the home side to move ahead on five minutes.
A slip by Sagna saw Johnson bound towards the Arsenal area before sending the ball across the home goal.
Vermaelen somehow failed to clear Johnson’s ball as Wojciech Szczesny
halted a Daniel Sturridge shot after the forward found himself
Henderson kept his composure amid the panic to feed Suarez, who lifted the ball over Szczesny and into the net.
Arsenal were almost level seconds later when Walcott bounded in on
goal, but Pepe Reina stood tall to nudge the ball over the bar.
Liverpool continued to enjoy some freedom whenever they broke up
field. Sturridge was played in by a superb pass from Suarez, but he
could only knock the shot wide on the run.
Szczesny then almost presented Sturridge with a tap-in after crazily
attempting a spot of dribbling five yards from his goal. The home side
finally came to their senses to make some gains moments later.
Lukas Podolski picked out Giroud who knocked a shot wide of goal
while Reina did superbly well to dive to his left in repelling a
swerving Walcott effort on 20 minutes.
At the other end, Daniel Agger rose above Szczesny to head towards
goal from Gerrard’s corner on 30 minutes, but Podolski was well placed
on the line to prevent a certain second while Henderson lifted a chip
over the bar with Szczesny well out of his goal in trying to make a
Liverpool looked eager at the outset of the second period and were
rewarded with a second goal after Vermaelen had escaped conceding a
penalty when he seemed to handle in challenging Sturridge. But Arsenal
were also denied their own claim for a penalty when Podolski seemed to
be clipped by Andre Wisdom in the visiting box.
The second Liverpool goal came to fruition when Henderson began a
hopeful run outside of the Arsenal area. He somehow managed to elude
five home players as the ball broke kindly for him in the heart of the
box. He could hardly believe his luck in slipping the shot into the
gaping net with Szczesny stranded.
Walcott had headed over seconds earlier, but Arsenal picked
themselves up quickly to breathe new life into the match when Giroud
rose to head a Wilshere free-kick into the net.
Liverpool were reeling when they shed the equaliser moments later.
Santi Cazorla fed Giroud, whose lay-off was met by Walcott to lash a low
shot into the net that was beyond Reina before he knew it.
Cazorla slammed an effort wide while Reina saved from Giroud as
Arsenal pressed for the winner, but it would not come as Giroud
agonisingly failed to convert a Podolski cross three minutes from time.