Bloodied Martin Skrtel earns Liverpool point against Arsenal

A bloodied and bandaged Martin Skrtel headed home a last-gasp 97th-minute equaliser to earn Liverpool a 2-2 draw against Arsenal in the Premier League at Anfield on Sunday.

AFP| Last Updated: Dec 21, 2014, 23:54 PM IST
Bloodied Martin Skrtel earns Liverpool point against Arsenal

Liverpool: A bloodied and bandaged Martin Skrtel headed home a last-gasp 97th-minute equaliser to earn Liverpool a 2-2 draw against Arsenal in the Premier League at Anfield on Sunday.

Having bossed the first half, Liverpool went ahead through Philippe Coutinho, only for goals from Mathieu Debuchy and Olivier Giroud to leave Arsene Wenger`s Arsenal on the brink of a smash-and-grab victory.

But Giroud`s accidental kick to Skrtel`s head led to nine minutes of stoppage time and the tattooed Slovakian centre-back claimed his revenge with a memorable header in front of the Kop.

But though the goal -- Skrtel`s first of the season -- gave Liverpool`s fans some much-needed Christmas cheer, it did little to improve their team`s standing in the table following a run of only two wins in nine games.

Brendan Rodgers`s side, who had Fabio Borini sent off, are now 17 points below leaders Chelsea and nine points below the top four, while Arsene Wenger`s Arsenal -- destroyed 5-1 on their previous visit in February -- trail the Champions League places by four points.

With Liverpool fielding seven midfielders in a 3-4-3 formation, which saw Raheem Sterling reprise his role as a `false nine`, it was unsurprising to see the hosts dominate possession from kick-off.

Steven Gerrard curled a free-kick wide in the early stages and Adam Lallana drilled a left-foot effort narrowly over after skilfully spinning onto a pass from Lazar Markovic.

After fielding a tame effort from Coutinho, Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny produced a decisive stop, spreading himself to thwart Markovic, who had been freed to run at goal by Gerrard`s flick.

Markovic also whipped a first-time shot over the bar from a Sterling pass, before the breakthrough arrived in the 45th minute.

After Giroud conceded possession, Jordan Henderson played a pass into the feet of Coutinho, who threw Debuchy off-balance before drilling a low shot into the bottom-left corner.There had been a sense of inevitability about the goal, but barely a minute later, Arsenal silenced the Kop by equalising with their first attempt at goal.

Alexis Sanchez`s right-wing free-kick was half-cleared, Mathieu Flamini kept the ball alive, and Debuchy climbed at the back post to head home via a deflection off Skrtel.

Skrtel`s misfortune continued early in the second period as he was left with a nasty gash on the back of his head after being accidentally kicked by Giroud, which prompted a six-minute stoppage in play.

Liverpool came close to scoring when play resumed, with Sterling slyly using his hand to knock the ball past the onrushing Szczesny before crossing for Gerrard, whose diving header sent the ball over.

But it was Arsenal who struck next. Giroud clipped Kieran Gibb`s pass wide to Santi Cazorla and then exploited sluggish defending to meet the Spaniard`s low cross with a shot that flew past Brad Jones.

Rodgers sent on strikers Borini and Rickie Lambert for the closing stages.

Borini drew a brilliant save from Szczesny with a late header, but after being booked for hurling the ball away when a throw-in decision went against him, he was sent off after catching Cazorla with a high foot.

Szczesny saved from Gerrard, but just as it looked like Arsenal would hang on, Skrtel met Gerrard`s right-wing corner with an emphatic near-post header to earn the 10 men a point.

In the day`s other game, Sunderland claimed a dramatic 1-0 victory at Newcastle United in the Tyne-Wear derby thanks to a 90th-minute goal from former Newcastle youth player Adam Johnson.