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Premier League: Arsenal 1 Manchester United 1

Robin van Persie scored on his return to Arsenal as newly crowned champions Manchester United snatched a 1-1 draw on Sunday.

Theo Walcott gave the hosts the lead after just two minutes, but the Dutchman’s equaliser means Arsene Wenger’s side’s chances of finishing in the Premier League’s top four are no longer in their hands with fifth-placed Tottenham two points behind, but with a game to play.

With Olivier Giroud suspended, Lukas Podolski started up front for Arsenal, while Kieran Gibbs replaced Nacho Monreal at left-back.

Manchester United also made two changes as Rio Ferdinand and Nani came in for Shinji Kagawa and Ryan Giggs, with Phil Jones moving into central midfield.

After receiving so much pre-match attention, United’s guard of honour passed without incident, while Van Persie – who moved from Arsenal to Manchester for 24 million pounds in the summer – was booed as expected on his return to the Emirates Stadium.

Van Persie’s impact in the first goal was telling, but it came at the wrong end of the pitch for the Premier League champions, as he gave the ball away in midfield and Arsenal’s Tomas Rosicky split the defence open with a great pass that played Walcott in down the right.

The Englishman, who was shown to be offside on television replays, charged past Patrice Evra before slotting the ball past Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea to delight the home fans.

Santi Cazorla had a terrific effort shortly after, with De Gea required to turn the ball over the bar, as Wenger’s side started superbly.

Jones nodded wide from close range after 17 minutes for United, while Van Persie and Jonny Evans were booked for crude challenges before the half-hour mark.

Arsenal remained on top and Podolski had a shot from a tight angle beaten away by De Gea, but Alex Ferguson’s men responded just before the break, with Van Persie having a header well saved by Wojciech Szczesny before Jones nodded over.

And United did have their equaliser before the break, as a reckless Bacary Sagna lunge saw Van Persie go down in the penalty area.

The striker dusted himself off and expertly dispatched his spot-kick, giving Szczesny no chance as the two sides headed into the break level.

Arsenal came out full of running in the second half and Rosicky had an early effort turned wide, while Ramsey’s strike from distance was hit straight at De Gea.
At the other end, Rooney headed at Szczesny, while the heated nature of the contest continued with Sagna, who had already been booked, lucky to stay on the pitch after a tackle on Evra.
Laurent Koscielny went close with 17 minutes left, but could only turn a shot over following a corner, while Arsenal had shouts for a penalty when Gibbs collided with Rio Ferdinand, although referee Phil Dowd was not interested.
Giggs had a goal-bound effort deflected wide in the 88th minute but in the end both sides were forced to share the spoils after an entertaining encounter.
With the title already secured, Manchester United enter another big match; a home clash with Chelsea on Sunday; in a relaxed frame of mind, while Arsenal will fancy their chances at the already-relegated QPR a day earlier as their bid for a top-four finish continues.

Sun 28 April, 2013
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