[VIDEO + RATINGS] Same old problems for Arsenal in dramatic opener
Written by Fab4.
Arsenal grabbed a point at Anfield after Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina spilled into his own net under pressure form Marouanne Chamakh with only minutes remaining, as both sides ended the game with 10 men.
It was a familiar game that all Arsenal fans have seem a million times over the last few years. Plenty of possession, no cutting edge in the final third and dodgy goalkeeping.
The first chance of the match fell to Thomas Vermaelen who fired in a powerful long-range free-kick which Reina did well to palm behind for a corner.
It took Liverpool until the 15th minute to cause the Gunners defence any real trouble when Johnsen’s cross almost found Joe Cole in the area. Arsenal were taking charge of the first half and having the lion’s shares of possession but few clear-cut chances were being made.
The nearest the Gunners came was when Nasri played in Eboue but Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard got back to intercept before the Ivorian could get his shot away.
Nasri was seeing a lot of the ball and sent a couple of free-kicks straight at the Liverpool wall. The home side were struggling to create and lone striker Ngog found himself off-side on more than one occasion.
Liverpool finished the half the stronger and debutant Jovanovic found some space in the Arsenal area but blasted his shot high and wide from a tight angle. Shortly after Glen Johnson drew a decent save from Almunia and from the resulting corner Ngog saw his goal-bound header cleared off the line by Clichy.
Then came the first moment of controversy in the match when Joe Cole got a straight red card for a late challenge on Koscielny. My view of the tackle was reckless but without intent, but watching it at normal speed i can understand why the ref had to give Cole a red. Harsh but fair.
Whatever Roy Hodgson said during his half-time team talk paid dividends within minutes of the restart as the home side took the lead. Arsenal tried to play their way out from the edge of their own area but Wilshere failed to gather Arshavin’s pass and Mascherano seized on the mistake and played in Ngog who smashed home from a tight angle. Almunia managed to get his finger tips on it but many will question the keeper as he really shouldn’t have been beaten on his near post from that angle.
Skrtel almost made it two after Almunia completely missed a Gerrard in-swinging free-kick but the Reds defender glanced his header wide. Despite the man advantage Arsenal were struggling to create and Walcott and Rosicky were brought on for Eboue and Wilshre.
Walcott almost made an immediate impact but Reina did well to tip his free-kick round the post. Liverpool brought on Torres for the tired Ngog and the Spanish striker almost burst away from Koscielny but the defender did well to out-muscle the forward and clear the danger.
Rosicky then drew a great save from Reina after some good work on the edge of the area, the Czech midfielder’s effort was tipped over for a corner. Arsenal were getting closer to the equalizer and substitute Van Persie did well to keep the ball alive but his headed cut-back didn’t fall for Walcott with the goal gaping.
With 5 minutes of injury time announced Arsenal pushed for the equalizing goal and finally found it through an unlikely source. The usually reliable Reina failed to deal with a Rosicky cross and under pressure from Chamakh, the Spaniard dropped the ball into his own net.
That wasn’t the last moment of drama as with seconds left, Koscielny was sent off for a second yellow card. The defender was adjudged to have committed intentional handball despite the ball striking him from close range. A very harsh decision considering the foul was committed on the half way line, and Ngog had committed an even more blatant case of deliberate handball during the second half right in front of the assistant referee but no yellow was produced.
Conclusions from the game
– Almunia is clearly not up to it. The goal was not THAT bad, it was a great shot from Ngog, but his positioning has to be questioned. Came and missed at least three crosses.
– Why would Arsene pick Almunia when he has made it clear he doesn’t trust him anymore and he has no future at the club? The Spanish waiter was hardly going to be in the right mind-frame for a big match.
– Koscielny looked good. Very decent start from him and unlucky to be sent off. Only a one-game ban though.
– Arsenal still have the same old problem of over-playing at times and lacked urgency in the final third. Hopefully the return of RVP and Fabregas will go some way to solving this problem.
– New GK and CB asap please Arsene. We were lucky to get away with it at Anfield so lets stop messing around and bring in the players we need to make this squad title winners.
Arsenal Player Ratings
Almunia – 4 – All over the place at crosses and questionable positioning for the goal.
Clichy – 6.5 – Ok from Clichy, nothing spectacular.
Sagna – 6 – See above. Still hasn’t worked on his crosses.
Vermaelen – 8 – Commanding and powerful at the back. Hard to imagine the team without him. Captain material.
Koscielny – 7.5 – Great debut and handled himself very well. Unlucky to be sent off.
Diaby – 6 – Average stuff, held on to the ball for too long at times…..again!
Wilshere – 6 – Looked comfortable on the ball, lost concentration for the goal.
Nasri – 7.5 – Arsenal’s best attacking figure in the first half but faded in the second.
Eboue – 5 – Did very little.
Arshavin – 4 – Did less than Eboue. No Anfield heroics this time.
Chamakh – 6.5 – Worked hard and made his presence felt.
Walcott – 5 – Tried his best but fell over a lot.
Van Persie – 5 – Looked hungry but little time to make an impact.
Rosicky – 6.5 – Did well but should maybe have scored when he danced through the Liverpool defence.
/ 14 hours ago
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