Pires guns down Liverpool
By Mark Kendall
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
The French international, who had been quiet up to that point, curled home a fabulous 25 yard effort after cutting in from the left flank midway through the second half to reward the visitors for their best period of the game.
The hosts got out of the traps the quicker of the two teams, and Jens Lehmann had to be alert to tip a long-range Michael Owen effort around the post early on, however Liverpool got a reward for their initial dominance on 13 minutes.
John Arne Riise whipped over a low left wing cross which, after skidding off the greasy turf, deflected off Owen into the path of Harry Kewell who drilled home a superbly controlled left foot volley from the edge of the box.
Gerard Houllier's men had a string of chances to increase their lead with Kewell spurning an almost identical opportunity to his goal on 23 minutes by firing high over the bar.
Owen then missed two excellent chances within three minutes, first overhitting an attempted lob when clean through, and then heading a Steven Gerrard free-kick over from close range.
Their profligacy was to be punished on the half hour however, when Arsenal hauled themselves level very much against the balance of play.
From Robert Pires' right wing free kick Edu glanced a header on to Sami Hyppia, and the ball rolled off the Finnish international and into the bottom corner to ensure that the sides went in level at the break.
Liverpool again made the brighter start after the restart, and again Owen missed a presentable chance when he headed a Steve Finnan cross narrowly over under pressure from Kolo Toure.
Both Liverpool and England were then handed an injury scare when Owen fell awkwardly on 63 minutes and, although the striker returned to fray, he was ultimately forced off ten minutes later, by which time The Gunners had assumed the lead through Pires' memorable strike.
Arsene Wenger's men grew in stature after taking the lead, and though El Hadji Diouf and Anthony Le Tallec both went close to equalising, the North Londoners held on relatively comfortably to clinch what had at one stage seemed an unlikely victory.