Premier League - Van Persie guns down Liverpool

Sat, 03 Mar 14:46:00 2012

Robin van Persie was the match-winner for Arsenal as he scored a dramatic stoppage-time volley in a dramatic 2-1 Premier League win over Liverpool at Anfield.

Liverpool 1 Arsenal 2

The Dutchman dispatched an excellent volley in injury time to claim a win which puts them right back into the hunt for an automatic Champions League place.

Van Persie had earlier levelled with a first-half header that cancelled out a Laurent Koscielny own goal that came soon after Wojciech Szczesny had saved a penalty from Dirk Kuyt.

Victory on Merseyside means Arsenal are now just four points behind third-placed Tottenham Hotspur, who host Manchester United on Sunday.

Liverpool were without their captain, Steven Gerrard, after the midfielder tweaked a hamstring during England's friendly with Netherlands in midweek. There were fitness concerns over Van Persie following that match, too, but both he and defender Thomas Vermaelen were passed fit for Arsenal.

Liverpool forward Luis Suarez was as much of a livewire as ever, and with 10 minutes gone the Uruguayan rolled past Koscielny and headed for goal. Szczesny reacted quickly to sprint out of his penalty area and head the ball away and, after Stewart Downing was unable to strike his attempted volley into the unguarded net cleanly, the Polish keeper cleared fully at the second attempt.

Suarez and Szczesny were again the key men on 18 minutes. Liverpool's number seven played a one-two inside the box with Kuyt and appeared to be tripped by the keeper's trailing leg, although he went down theatrically.

Charlie Adam, who missed a penalty in last weekend's shootout victory in the Carling Cup final, went to place the ball on the spot, but Kuyt overruled him and took the kick instead. The Dutchman's low effort was saved well by Szczesny, and his poor follow-up effort allowed the Arsenal keeper to bat away the rebound effort.

All of Szczesny's good work was undone four minutes later when Koscielny took a swipe at Jordan Henderson's low cross at the near post and only succeeded in shanking it into his own net. It was Koscielny's second own goal in the league this season and Arsenal's fifth. No other side has scored more than two in that time.

Liverpool were almost two up moments later when Szczesny parried Henderson's weak effort, but Suarez could only strike the outside of the post with his follow-up effort from an angle.

That was the 21st time Liverpool have hit the woodwork in the league this season, more than any other side, and they were made to rue the latest instance of that on 31 minutes.

Bacary Sagna curled in an inviting cross and Jamie Carragher – in for the injured Daniel Agger – made no attempt for the ball, allowing Van Persie to steal in for his first ever Premier League goal at Anfield.

Suarez almost scored one of the goals of the season when he slalomed his way through four Arsenal players only to be denied by Szcesny's low save, and the two teams were level at the break.

Soon after the restart, a concussed Mikel Arteta had to be stretchered off after an innocuous collision with Henderson, meaning Abou Diaby came on for his first appearance since November.

Understandably, the tempo of the match dropped somewhat after that lengthy stoppage, but Liverpool began to turn the screw on their visitors in the final 20 minutes.

However, for all of their possession the Reds struggled to test Szczesny much more, and indeed Arsenal could have gone ahead were it not for a great reaction save by Pepe Reina after Theo Walcott's shot took two quick deflections en route to goal.

The Reds were ultimately made to pay for their profligacy when, in the second of eight added minutes, Alex Song's floated ball over the top was met by a crisp left-footed volley from Van Persie which went between Reina and the near post for his 31st Arsenal goal of the season.

Robin van Persie was the match-winner for Arsenal as he scored a dramatic stoppage-time volley in a 2-1 Premier League win over Liverpool. - 2 .

Tony Mabert - @tony_mabert / Eurosport

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