Gunners stunned by Morison
Spirited Canaries frustrate Arsenal at Emirates
Last Updated: May 5, 2012 3:27pm
Arsenal dropped two crucial points to cast doubt over their UEFA Champions League hopes for next season after a late goal from Norwich substitute Steve Morison pegged them back to a 3-3 draw at Emirates Stadium.
The dramatic encounter saw substitute Morison earn the Canaries a well-deserved point after Gunners skipper Robin van Persie had earlier looked to have salvaged a win for the hosts.
Yossi Benayoun, who turned 32 on Saturday, opened the scoring after just one minute and six seconds in North London but the visitors pulled things level through Wes Hoolahan after a blunder from goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.
Grant Holt then handed the Canaries a 2-1 lead going into the break after lifting a deflected shot over Szczesny in the 26th minute.
Captain Van Persie came to the Gunners' rescue in the second half, notching an impressive double, but Norwich were rewarded for a solid performance late on when Morison netted to hand them a share of the spoils.
Arsene Wenger's men are now in danger of being overtaken in the race for Europe, sitting just two points clear of nearest rivals Tottenham and Newcastle, who play on Sunday.
A Gunners win looked a very safe bet indeed when Benayoun marked his birthday with the opening goal after a minute's play. He picked the ball up on the left side of the Norwich penalty area, cut inside and curled a sublime effort up over Ruddy into the far corner.
That should have settled any nerves, but instead, the Canaries were galvanised.
Bradley Johnson's chipped free-kick was headed goalwards by diminutive Canada frontman Simeon Jackson, and the equaliser came in the 12th minute.
Full-back Naughton, on loan from Tottenham, raced forward down the left and played the ball through to Hoolahan on the penalty spot. The Republic of Ireland midfielder did not really connect properly with his shot but it was enough to squirm past Szczesny and across the line.
Now it was Arsenal whose resolve was tested, as the atmosphere grew decidedly edgy.
Norwich continued to ask questions of the home defence and went ahead in the 27th minute. A quick break saw Hoolahan release Holt at the edge of the Arsenal area. As former Norwich loanee Kieran Gibbs backed off, the 31-year-old's shot caught the defender's boot and looped over Szczesny and in.
Just like against Wigan, the Gunners were shell-shocked and their afternoon took another turn for the worse in the 33rd minute when full-back Bacary Sagna pulled up with a calf injury and had to be replaced by Francis Coquelin.
Arsenal's tempers were frayed, and Benayoun was fortunate not to be punished when he kicked out at Simon Lappin after a tussle with the Norwich defender.
The visitors remained composed and felt they should have been awarded a penalty when Coquelin up-ended Hoolahan following another quick break down the right channel.
Referee Taylor and his assistants were in the thick of the action again a few minutes later when Russell Martin had his shirt pulled by Laurent Koscielny at a corner, but again the officials gave nothing - much to the frustration of the Norwich bench.
It could have been 3-1 in first-half stoppage time but for a perfectly-timed sliding challenge by Koscielny to block Holt's close-range effort.
There was more purpose about Arsenal in the second half, Van Persie rolling the ball across the face of goal following a sustained period of pressure.
Norwich, however, also looked to be positive and Jackson broke clear of Thomas Vermaelen and skipped into the Arsenal area, but his shot was straight at Szczesny when he probably should have squared for Holt to tap in.
As the hour mark passed, Van Persie failed to beat Ruddy with a tame strike from 12 yards before Aaron Ramsey dragged his shot wide. The Wales midfielder was replaced in the 63rd minute by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as Wenger looked to inject some much-needed impetus into his side.
It was captain Van Persie who made the breakthrough though, as he volleyed home Alex Song's excellent angled ball through the penalty area.
Arsenal maintained their momentum as Norwich fought hard to disrupt it as much as possible, with Gunners boss Arsene Wenger exchanging a few heated words with Canaries counterpart Paul Lambert across the technical area.
There was elation, though, when the ball ricocheted into the path of Van Persie, who reacted quickest to lash his shot under Ruddy.
However, the Canaries were not to be denied a famous result as with Arsenal pressing forwards, they were caught out by a ball over the top and Morison ran on to slot past Szczesny.There was still time for Ruddy to deny Van Persie with a fine close-range block before a clear push by Naughton in the back of the Arsenal captain as he looked to tap in at the far post went unpunished - and the Gunners' Champions League destiny was again taken out of their hands.
|Arsenal||Team Statistics||Norwich City|
|1||1st Half Goals||2|
|11||Shots on Target||4|
|7||Shots off Target||6|
|59.7||1st Half Poss.||40.3|
|69.3||2nd Half Poss.||30.7|
Barclays Premier League
|8||West Bromwich Albion||38||49|
|10||West Ham United||38||46|
|20||Queens Park Rangers||38||25|