Robin van Persie rescues Arsenal at the death

28 January 2009 10:07
Everton's aspirations of putting yet more pressure on the big boys at the top of the table were just seconds away from bearing fruit, Tim Cahill's header seemingly putting the club just two points behind Arsenal in fifth place. Right at the death, however, Robin van Persie popped up to send an unstoppable left-footed strike beyond Tim Howard with a minute of injury time to go.

Both sides extended their undefeated run to nine matches, but considering the context you sensed that neither side would have been satisfied with a single point before the match began, even if Arsene Wenger was mightily relieved to have stolen one at the end.

The snag for Arsenal is that Aston Villa are doing more than just threatening to take their Champions League place next season. Infuriatingly for Wenger, Villa keep winning. Of even more concern for the Arsenal manager, however, will be the fact that he can still feel Everton's breath on the back of his neck.

'It is never enough because you always play for three,' Wenger said when asked if he believed the point won here was sufficient. 'I believe that Everton is as big a threat for us as Aston Villa.' Indeed they are, in spite of the injury problems that have left David Moyes with few attacking options.

The Everton manager was hoping to make two loan signings this week, but he conceded last night that they had both fallen through. With no others in the pipeline, he could have a problem, for while Everton impressed early on in the middle of the field, they lacked the final dash of invention and execution that is so crucial against this sort of opposition.

When Leighton Baines put the ball in from the left wing for Marouane Fellaini after 10 minutes, for instance, the forward slid in at the near post but was unable to get his effort on goal.

Arsenal were no better. They began with characteristic zest and earned an early free-kick which Van Persie sent soaring goalwards, but Cahill was there in the wall, putting his head where it hurts.

Other than that, it was slim pickings. Denilson had a sniff midway through the half, but his stinging shot whistled just wide. It was spirited stuff from both sides, certainly, but blunter than a pair of safety scissors.

Wenger and Moyes must have summoned some stern words at the break, for it was an enlivened bunch who emerged for the second half. The Everton crowd held their breath as Denilson shaped for a shot outside the area, but the Brazilian sent it hurtling over the bar to the relieved jeers of the Goodison faithful.

Then it was Everton's turn. Cahill escaped the defence, stole a glance at goal and let fly, but his shot was wide.

Then, in the 61st minute, Cahill finally made the breakthrough. The striker rose to put his head to a cross from Baines, directing it back across Almunia and into the net.

When Cahill fired off another shot which went swerving towards Almunia with 10 minutes to go, the match looked done and dusted. But Almunia saved, and Arsenal thundered forward desperately.

Out of nowhere, Van Persie charged into the box and to the left of Howard, and sent his left-footer into the net.

'We are disappointed,' Moyes said. 'Those points are vital. But it is amazing how far you have come to be disappointed to have taken only a point against Arsenal.'

Source: Telegraph

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