Skrtel rescues Liverpool from Arsenal at Anfield


Martin Skrtel’s equaliser seven minutes into stoppage time gave Liverpool a fully deserved point against Arsenal at Anfield.

Referee Michael Oliver had added nine minutes on after a lengthy second-half delay when Skrtel required treatment for a head wound sustained in an accidental clash with Olivier Giroud.

Giroud looked to have sent Arsenal on the way to avenging their 5-1 thrashing at Anfield last season when he put them ahead, Mathieu Debuchy having equalised seconds after Philippe Coutinho gave Liverpool the lead on the stroke of half-time.

But Skrtel, heavily bandaged and with Liverpool reduced to 10 men after substitute Fabio Borini was sent off late on, rose to meet Adam Lallana’s corner in the 97th minute and power a header past Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny in front of the Kop.

Arsenal were desolate but it would have been a real smash-and-grab had they hung on for three points after Liverpool showed most of the ambition and moments of quality in a game high on drama but short on class.

Liverpool supporters rose to acclaim their team’s resilience at the final whistle, but they may actually feel disappointed not to claim all three points against an Arsenal side that were desperately poor for long periods.

Brendan Rodgers’s team moved into the top 10 in the Premier League table, but they are nine points adrift of West Ham in fourth place, while Arsenal are sixth.

What was clear, however, was that these are two sides who will prove an irrelevance when it comes to the title race. Their main business will be contesting a top-four place and trying to ensure they are in next season’s Champions League.

Liverpool kept Raheem Sterling in a central role, from where he scored two goals in the midweek Capital One Cup quarter-final win at Bournemouth, but it was the lively Lazar Markovic who had the best opportunities during a first half in which chances were in short supply.

Szczesny blocked with his legs when the £20m summer signing from Benfica was played in by Steven Gerrard and he should have hit the target from the edge of the area after being set up by Sterling.

Liverpool had been much improved without carving Arsenal open, but the breakthrough finally came on half-time when Coutinho made space in the area before drilling home a low right-foot shot off the post.

It would have given Liverpool a deserved lead at the break, but the defensive frailties that have haunted them this season meant they could not protect their advantage even for a few seconds until half-time.

Liverpool could not clear Alexis Sanchez’s free-kick and, when Mathieu Flamini nodded on, Debuchy got the better of Skrtel to head past the flat-footed Brad Jones.

There was a delay after the break for Skrtel’s head injury, before Lucas fired over the top and Gerrard headed off target from Sterling’s cross, although replays confirmed he had handled the ball around the onrushing Szczesny.

Arsenal showed greater ruthlessness in front of goal to go ahead after 64 minutes, Giroud sweeping a finish past Jones at the near post from Santi Cazorla’s cross.

Rodgers had introduced Rickie Lambert and Borini to give Liverpool the cutting edge they lacked, and it needed an athletic save from Szczesny to turn the Italian’s header over the bar.

But Borini, out of favour with Rodgers, blotted his copybook further with two yellow cards, first for hurling the ball away then lunging at Cazorla.

Despite Arsenal’s numerical advantage, Liverpool continued to press and Skrtel delivered a result that was the least they deserved.

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