Van-tastic Gunners stun Anfield
Dalglish's Champions League hopes in tatters after first home defeat
Last Updated: 03/03/12 5:32pm
Robin van Persie: The classy Dutchman was once again Arsenal's match-winner
Robin van Persie delivered a potentially killer blow to Liverpool's UEFA Champions League hopes with another match-winning performance which gave Arsenal a 2-1 victory at Anfield and reinforced his club's talk of third spot in the Premier League.
The Dutchman scored both goals on Merseyside - the second a breath-taking volley deep into eight minutes of injury time - to help Arsene Wenger's team come from a goal down to secure a fourth successive success in the league and move just four points behind third-placed Tottenham.
A first defeat of the season in any competition at Anfield brought Liverpool, who had taken a first-half lead through Laurent Koscielny's own goal, down to earth with a bump after last weekend's Carling Cup final glory.
Kenny Dalglish's team are now 10 points behind the top four and had only themselves to blame for the loss to Arsenal after failing with a first half penalty and twice hitting the post.
Arsenal captain Van Persie had two shots on target and scored both as he took his record to 25 goals in as many league matches.
Reds manager Dalglish must wish he had a striker in such form after watching his side squander a number of opportunities.
A missed penalty and two shots rebounding off the post - taking the number of times they have hit the woodwork this season to 21 - only half the story as another familiar tale unfolded at Anfield.
Arsenal were lucky to go in level at half-time and so to come away with a victory will delight Wenger and infuriate Dalglish.
The Gunners had two chances in the first 45 minutes, with Theo Walcott testing Jose Reina and Van Persie scoring.
By contrast Liverpool, without injured captain Steven Gerrard, created enough openings at the other end to have been out of sight at the interval.
After the visitors' first chance, when Jose Reina denied Walcott with a good low save after former Everton midfielder Mikel Arteta's long diagonal ball over the top of left-back Jose Enrique had put the England winger through, the visitors appeared in danger of being swamped.
Stewart Downing, so impressive in last weekend's Carling Cup win at Wembley, fluffed his shot with Wojciech Szczesny caught 10 yards out of his penalty area before Luis Suarez won a penalty when he was tripped by the goalkeeper.
Unfortunately for Liverpool, their travails from the spot have been indicative of their season in general and Kuyt's effort was saved by Szczesny, who also denied the Dutchman's shot from the rebound.
Dalglish's side have now missed six penalties, excluding the two also squandered in last week's Wembley shoot-out, this season.
The Arsenal goalkeeper was powerless to prevent the opening goal, however, when Laurent Koscielny, under little pressure, turned Jordan Henderson's cross into his own net.
Liverpool should have made it 2-0 moments later when Henderson's shot was parried by Szczesny to Suarez who drilled the rebound against the post.
On the brink
But just when it looked as if Arsenal were on the brink of cracking they equalised with a goal of stunning simplicity on the half-hour.
Bacary Sagna's right-wing cross perfectly picked out Van Persie who had got in front of Jamie Carragher and the striker made no mistake with his header.
More Suarez trickery, taking him past the quartet of Alex Song, Sagna, Koscielny and Vermaelen, saw his low shot brilliantly turned behind by Szczesny before Kuyt hit the post in added time.
Early in the second half there was a lengthy stoppage when Henderson collided with Arteta, who eventually left the field heavily concussed on a stretcher to be replaced by Abou Diaby.
Thomas Vermaelen was booked for clattering into the back of Suarez as Liverpool continued to enjoy the upper hand without really threatening.
When they did create a chance in the 69th minute it fell to Martin Kelly close in at the far post but he went with his right foot instead of his left and bundled Kuyt's cross wide.
Arsenal remained a danger on the break and Reina had to be alert to brilliantly block a Walcott shot with his legs after being wrong-footed.
Downing wasted a chance to square the ball to Suarez, hitting his cross too close to Szczesny, before screwing a volley well wide.And the Reds were made to pay for their profligacy as in the second of eight minutes of added time Van Persie snatched victory for the Gunners by expertly volleying home Song's cross from a narrow angle.
|1||1st Half Goals||1|
|4||Shots on Target||7|
|8||Shots off Target||3|
|55||1st Half Poss.||45|
|50.4||2nd Half Poss.||49.6|
Barclays Premier League
|6||West Ham United||12||18|
|13||West Bromwich Albion||12||13|
|20||Queens Park Rangers||12||8|