Liverpool 1-1 Arsenal: Last minute Pepe Reina own goal gifts point to Gunners
Cole and Koscielny see red as points are shared...
By Alex Fisher
A late own goal by Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina gifted Arsenal a point in their opening Premier League match of the new campaign at Anfield.
Despite debutant Joe Cole seeing red before the interval, the hosts took the lead at the start of the second-half thanks to a belter from striker David Ngog.
The strike looked to have given new Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson the perfect start, but the Gunners kept pushing and were rewarded with a last minute equaliser.
|Bet:||Returns:||Newcastle United £57.50||Draw £46.00||Arsenal £15.71|
|Bet:||Returns:||Newcastle United £55.00||Draw £43.30||Arsenal £15.30|
|Bet:||Returns:||Newcastle United £60.00||Draw £40.00||Arsenal £15.71|
|Bet:||Returns:||Newcastle United £60.00||Draw £46.00||Arsenal £15.50|
|Bet:||Returns:||Newcastle United £50.00||Draw £43.30||Arsenal £15.70|
Hodgson named star striker Fernando Torres on the Liverpool bench, opting to start with Ngog upfront, with summer signing Cole making his Red's debut supporting the Frenchman. Milan Jovanovic also made his debut in midfield alongside wantaway Argentina midfielder Javier Mascherano.
Following a summer of transfer speculation, Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas was not included in the matchday squad due to illness, while striker Robin van Persie began on the bench. New signings Marouane Chamakh and Laurent Koscielny made their bows for the Gunners and teenage midfield playmaker Jack Wilshere was also included in the starting line-up.
Both teams started the match in a positive manner and as early as the fifth minute Thomas Vermaelen had the first chance, testing Reina with a 30-yard free-kick that the Spanish goalkeeper punched to safety.
Liverpool’s first chance of the match arrived shortly after. A long ball from captain Steven Gerrard found Dirk Kuyt on the right wing. The Dutchman played the ball inside to the overlapping Glen Johnson, who’s cross was just behind an unmarked Cole in the six-yard box.
Five minutes later a passing move from Arsenal down their left wing resulted in Samir Nasri playing a neat through ball to Emmanuel Eboue, but the backtracking Gerrard made a crucial last minute challenge to deny the Ivorian midfielder.
The two were involved again a minute later when a tackle by Gerrard on Eboue gave Arsenal a free-kick on the edge of the Liverpool area. However, Nasri’s free-kick flew straight into the wall and Vermaelen’s follow-up effort was well wide of Reina’s goal.
Arsenal were beginning to dominate the match with their passing football and just after the half hour mark another move saw Nasri find Gael Clichy, but the French full-back fired a swerving 25-yard shot just over the bar.
The home side were struggling to create any clear opportunities but Jovanovic had a great chance to score on his debut. A long ball from the Liverpool defence was chased down by the Serbian midfielder, but he fired his shot wide from inside the penalty area.
Liverpool finished the half the stronger and in the final minute, a neat one two between Johnson and Kuyt gave the full-back a sight of goal only for his 20-yard left footed strike to be tipped over the bar by Manuel Almunia. From the resulting Gerrard corner, Ngog saw his header from six-yards cleared off the line by Clichy.
In the very last seconds of the half came the biggest moment of the match as Cole was sent off following a late challenge on Koscielny by the corner flag. Referee Martin Atkinson brandished a straight red card for Cole for the tackle, which saw the Arsenal defender leave the pitch on a stretcher.
Seeing red | Liverpool's Joe Cole endures a nightmare debut
Despite being down to 10-men, Liverpool made a perfect start to the second-half thanks to a goal from Ngog straight after the restart. Mascherano played a neat ball into the path of the Frenchman who powered his shot past Almunia at his near post.
Minutes later the home side created another chance through Martin Skrtel. The Slovakian defender met a right wing free-kick from Gerrard but his header dropped wide of the right hand post.
In the 56th minute the home side created another chance as a free-kick from Gerrard found Ngog inside the area, but the striker was unable to keep his header on target.
Despite having the extra man, Arsenal were struggling to make any inroads in the second-half, which led to manager Arsene Wenger making two substitutions on the hour mark with Tomas Rosicky and Theo Walcott replacing Eboue and Wilshere.
Following his introduction Walcott had his first chance of the match from a 25-yard free-kick. A foul by Gerrard on Chamakh gave the England winger his chance from the left side of the penalty area but Reina made an easy save diving to his left.
Arsenal continued to press for an equaliser and they created another opportunity in the 77th minute. A low pass from Rosicky found Walcott inside the penalty area but as the substitute turned he stood on the ball, allowing Skrtel to clear the ball to Liverpool substitute Fernando Torres only for the striker to be muscled off the ball by Koscielny as they both chased forward.
Five minutes from time a tough challenge by Rosicky on Gerrard saw the Czech midfielder booked, although Gerrard appeared to leave his studs in the challenge and was lucky not to receive his second booking of the match.
A minute later the visitors created their best chance of the second-half – a slick passing move saw Rosicky play a one two with Chamakh, but his right footed shot was well saved by Reina.
Arsenal continued to put pressure on the Liverpool defence and they very nearly equalised in the 87th minute. A deep cross from Clichy found substitute Robin Van Persie at the back post but his cushioned header fell to a Liverpool defender in the box.
Dramatically Arsenal did get their equaliser in the 90th minute. Chamakh looked to get on the end of a left wing cross and as the Moroccan striker challenged Reina on the six-yard line the ball hit the goalkeeper and fell into the bottom corner of his net.
In the last minute of injury-time Koscielny handled to stop the ball reaching Torres and Martin Atkinson issued the defender with his second yellow card.
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