That Robin Van Persie, he on fayah, maan!! This was a match not for the faint hearted. It had everything, an own goal, a stupendous save off a PK and its rebound, a heart in the mouth injury that delayed the match interminably, and two absolute peaches from Robin Van Persie off two absolute mouthwatering deliveries.
Arsenal came to Anfield with the Reds on a Carling Cup high. RVP cleared to play the match much to the huge relief of every Gunner heart.
Luis Suarez now declared racism free but not dive free by a group of FIFA certified shamans made himself a thorough nuisance and in an 18th minute bit of magic sold Mark Halsey a bill off goods going down like a pole axed steer after Wojciech Szczesny came sliding out. Replays showed Szcz actually pulled his leg back ever so slightly to avoid any such contact. Halsey had no hesitation pointing to the spot.
Justice was served when Dirk Kuyt whose PK was instrumental in the Reds getting back on track in the Carling Cup shootout was frustrated by Szcz's incredible heroics. The Arsenal goalie had to dive all the way to his right to save and off the rebound Kuyt placed it to the left for a sure score but Szcz distilling Peter "Cat" Bonetti's lightning reflexes threw himself across goal to punch the ball out just in time. It was all stunning and Kuyt was stunned, Dalglish was stunned, Anfield was stunned. Even my aunt's 32 year old cat was stunned and he's seen a lot of football matches in his lifetime.
This is Arsenal though. From the sublime to the dire five minutes later. Kos is such a praiseworthy defender but his stupid trigger trips up ever so often as off a Jordan Henderson cross skimming inches off the ground seemingly well covered by him he enacts a Van Persie flick for an own goal. There were multiple options available including booting the ball, staring it down a la Zoolander, or transporting it tele-kinetically away from goal. The long and short of it another Arsenal own goal artificially inflated Liverpool's anemic goal output to 28 goals.
This would have been hand wringing time but last month Arsenal did go to a store not for a left back, right back, or a partner for RVP but to buy a spine at a knocked down price. Off a Bakary Sagna cross and it was a beautifully whipped ball, RVP gracefully knocked it past Pepe Reina for the equalizer. Use your head, his father said, and the Dutchman did just that. Arsenal survived the half after Suarez dazzled again reducing everyone to cardboard cutouts but Szcz again came up with a wonderful save to deflect the ball out. A few minutes later Kuyt was denied by the upright.
Mikel Arteta's injury consumed everyone after play began, knocked out after accidentally running into Jordan Henderson. He lay on the ground many minutes without moving before the para-medics stretchered him off. Here is wishing Arteta all the best. Hope it's nothing serious. Wenger was forced to bring on Abou Diaby coming back after almost eight months out. The rangy French midfielder did his best even having a crack at goal but he looked justifiably rusty.
The second half was almost all Liverpool as they dominated possession while Arsenal lost any sharpness and shape in midfield post Arteta. Tomas Rosicky was his industrious self but he rediscovered his errant passing form after that scintillating Spurs display. 13 corners to nothing tells a story but it also tells you that Liverpool for all the favourable stats managed not to score. John Henry coughed up over £100m for Carroll, Adams, Suarez, and Downing but only in bizarro world can this be considered a favourable ROI.
In another worrisome sign, Wenger had to sub off Diaby who seems to have strained his groin, bringing on Ox to replace him.
Just when a draw would have been ideal for Arsenal came the fin de seicle moment. Song who has done this before provided an alley oop to RVP beating the offside trap by inches and the striker going wide was in perfect position to smash the ball past Pepe Reina and the near post with a single flourish of his left leg. Michael Jordan and Chad Ochocinco move over. Someday when we have the kinematic and the imaging capabilities the neural interaction with the musculo-skeletal plant to produce such transformational events will be better understood. It was the 92nd minute and the visiting Arsenal fans were rocking as a sadness descended down Anfield. What a marked contrast to the giddy celebrations last weekend.
Arsenal move to fourth depending on the Chelsea - WBA match while Liverpool's chances of claiming fourth spot are virtually over.