Arsenal fight back to draw with Liverpool

Last updated 11:01 31/01/2013
GOAL!: Liverpool's Jordan Henderson (R) shoots to score against Arsenal.

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Arsenal staged a second-half comeback against Liverpool to draw 2-2 as both teams missed a chance to close in on the Champions League qualification places in the English Premier League.

Arsenal's calamitous defending allowed Liverpool to race into the lead after five minutes through Luis Suarez, and Jordan Henderson was given the space to extend the lead on the hour.

But Liverpool's own defence collapsed, with Olivier Giroud beginning Arsenal's comeback with a header in the 64th minute and Theo Walcott equalized three minutes later.

''We could have lost the game and won it as well by three or four goals,'' Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said.

''That showed we created many chances going forward but we were nervous defensively.'' The draw left sixth-place Arsenal four points adrift of Tottenham in the fourth Champions League place, and three points behind Everton, which beat West Bromwich Albion 2-1.

Liverpool remained three points behind Arsenal in seventh, having failed to produce its first win against a top-10 team this season. ''It's a game we should have won, but we didn't,'' Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said.

''We showed great resilience and quality ... I can see the group getting better all the time.'' Liverpool showed from the start it had recovered quickly from an embarrassing FA Cup loss against third-tier club Oldham on Sunday (local time).

The visitors were helped by the defensive frailties of Arsenal, which conceded first for the fifth consecutive league match.

Seizing on a slip by Bacary Sagna, Glen Johnson crossed to Daniel Sturridge, whose shot was parried by goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.

The ball came out to Aaron Ramsey who dithered, Henderson picked up possession, teed up Suarez and the striker's shot deflected off Sagna into the net.

Such collapses at the back have been nothing new for Arsenal this season as the team's pursuit of the top four has faltered. Arsenal tried to produce a speedy reply, with a defense-splitting pass from Jack Wilshere releasing Walcott but goalkeeper Pepe Reina's agility thwarted the resulting shot.

But Arsenal was leaving itself exposed in the pursuit of an equalizer as Liverpool continued to apply the pressure.

Suarez was given space around the halfway line to ping a precise cross-field pass to Sturridge, but the January signing struck wide.

At the other end, Giroud missed the target and Walcott's effort was tipped wide by Reina. Meanwhile, Podolski was required on the Arsenal goal-line to clear Daniel Agger's header.

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There was a blow for Arsenal when Kieran Gibbs limped off with a thigh injury that will keep him out for three weeks, as he was replaced by Andre Santos.

While Walcott came close to levelling at the start of the second half when he nodded over, Liverpool was looking the more cohesive unit.

And their endeavour was rewarded with a second goal as Henderson cut into the penalty area past Per Mertesacker and Santos.

An initial shot came back off Santos and Henderson swept the ball into the net on the hour.

But from a position of strength, Liverpool crumbled as Arsenal's quality finally shone through. ''Going 2-0 up it's disappointing to concede so quickly,'' Henderson said.

The comeback began in the 64th minute when Giroud rose to meet Wilshere's free kick and a low header was sent past Reina.

Three minutes later, Arsenal was level after cutting through the Liverpool defence with a flowing interchange between Sagna, Santi Cazorla and Giroud before Walcott lashed the ball into the net.

''He is absolutely moving forward - his attitude, his determination,'' Wenger said. ''He is a man now playing football and he takes responsibility.''

Arsenal pressed for the winner, with Cazorla flashing a shot across the face of goal and then setting up Giroud, whose effort was pushed wide by Reina.

But Giroud squandered a better chance to claim the three points when he miskicked after Podolski sent a low cross to the far post.

As the match had begun, the final chance would fall to Suarez, but Szczesny turned away his shot from a tight angle.

- AP

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