Arsenal’s English Premier League title dream appears over after a last-gasp penalty from Dirk Kuyt denied them victory against Liverpool.
The Dutchman scored from the penalty spot in the 100th minute of play to make the scores 1-1, just seconds after his international team-mate Robin van Persie thought he had won the game for Arsenal and heaped pressure on leaders Manchester United.
Van Persie stroked home his spot-kick, given for a foul by Jay Spearing on Cesc Fabregas in injury time, to seemingly end what had be another frustrating match for Arsene Wenger’s men on Sunday.
But then, with barely 30 seconds left on the clock, Liverpool were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the area.
The danger seemed to be over when Luis Suarez’s effort was blocked.
But Emmanuel Eboue inexplicably shoved over Liverpool midfielder Luicas Leiva as he chased the ball away from goal towards the touchline.
Kuty took full advantage to earn Liverpool a point and leave Arsenal six points behind Manchester United, with both teams having six games left to play this season.
It was a dramatic end to a match that had looked to be heading for a goalless draw until the final moments.
Liverpool had Jamie Carragher, Fabio Aurelio and Andy Carroll all taken off injured during the game, but Arsenal still could not find a way through.
And the result was no doubt a massive fillip for Sir Alex Ferguson’s United, who exited the FA Cup to bitter rivals Manchester City on Saturday but now go to Newcastle on Tuesday in pole position in the league.
Arsenal have endured so many similar matches during the course of the season and, despite all the focus on their shaky defence, the problem has often been finding a breakthrough against defensive-minded opponents.
The same was true against Liverpool.
The first half at least showed promise but never quite got going, as Arsenal attempted to play at pace but nevertheless created few clear-cut chances.
The first opportunity came after 13 minutes when winger Theo Walcott saw his shot badly fumbled by Reds goalkeeper Pepe Reina.
But Liverpool survived that scare and were fortunate again when Laurent Koscielny’s header from a 17th-minute corner cannoned back off the crossbar.
Kuyt blocked Walcott’s follow-up with his shoulder – not, as Walcott claimed, with his hand.
There was another decent chance for the hosts after 29 minutes when Suarez gave the ball away and Cesc Fagregas combined well with van Persie, only for him to shoot wastefully wide.
Liverpool were so quiet in the opening 45 minutes, with Suarez particularly off colour, that Arsenal really should have taken advantage – especially after defender Fabio Aurelio limped off after only 22 minutes to be replaced by 17-year-old Jake Robinson.
With teenager John Flanagan at right-back and former youth teamer Jay Spearing in midfield, it left Liverpool with a lack of experience in such a big game.
Even so, Suarez had the first real opportunity of the second half, drifting past his marker to send a shot narrowly wide.
But Liverpool’s ambition was quickly halted by a series of further injures, in particular a nasty one for Jamie Carragher, who clashed heads with teammate Flanagan and had to be attended to for some time before being carried off on a stretcher.
Fortunately, the defender was soon reported to be awake and talking to staff in the dressing room. But it left Liverpool thin on the ground.
Striker Carroll soon limped off too with an ankle problem while the arrival of Andriy Arshavin and Nicklas Bendtner gave Arsenal renewed momentum.
They finally forced Reina into a meaningful save in the 85th minute when he stopped well from van Persie, but Liverpool also had an opportunity through Suarez on the break and held out during the first eight minutes of injury time.
It all looked to be heading for a goalless draw, until the dramatic final moments.
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