By Richard Clarke
A superb strike by Robert Pires saw Arsenal complete a 2-1 comeback at Anfield on Saturday and stay top of the Premiership.
In the 68th minute, debutant Jeremie Aliadiere worked the ball to Edu who lost it and then recovered. He played the ball back into the path of Pires just outside the Liverpool area on the left-hand side. The Frenchman cut in and released a curling shot that sped into the far corner of the net leaving keeper Jerzy Dudek groping thin air.
It was a remarkable goal given the opening stages of the game. In truth, Liverpool could have won the game in the first half-hour. Michael Owen had clear opportunities before and after Harry Kewell had put them ahead in the 14th minute.
Arsenal's equaliser came against the run of play. Pires's right-wing free-kick was met by Edu at the far post but Sami Hyypia got the final touch.
But the visitors clicked into gear after the interval and deserved the victory brought by Pires' wonder strike.
It assures that Arsenal stay top of the Premiership over the international week. This game kicked-off at lunchtime so at full time the advantage was four points. However there was every chance the chasing pack would reduce that in Saturday afternoon's matches.
Arsène Wenger has surprised many by choosing Aliadiere alongside Thierry Henry with Sylvain Wiltord dropping to bench. The fleet-footed 20-year-old forward looked special early last season. He came off the bench three times in the opening four games and even scored against West Brom at Highbury. However a hernia injury blighted his season and eventually an operation ended his campaign. This season, he is back with a bang.
Sol Campbell returned alongside Kolo Toure in central defence with Martin Keown also dropping down to the substitutes. Wenger said in yesterday's pre-game press conference that the 37-year-old's impressive form in the last three games meant it would be a very difficult decision. However, Campbell, who has been absent after the death of his father, got the nod.
We already knew Freddie Ljungberg (ankle), Patrick Vieira (thigh), Dennis Bergkamp (leg) would not play because they had not recovered from their injuries.
Liverpool had their own injury problems however. Danny Murphy, Jamie Carragher, Milan Baros, Dietmar Hamann, and Bruno Cheyrou were out. Gerard Houllier left Emile Heskey on the bench in favour of Salif Diao.
The home side started much the better. Jens Lehmann got the merest touch on Owen's low shot and then dived down well on the skiddy, rain-soaked surface to clutch Vladimir Smicer's drive.
In the 14th minute they took the lead. John Arne Riise crossed from the right and the ball ricocheted to Kewell just inside the corner of the area. His technique was sufficiently good to arrow the ball into the far corner of the net.
Kewell skied a simpler chance over the bar in the 23rd minute after the Arsenal failed to clear. At this stage Arsenal had barely threatened, Henry put that right with a difficult bobbling shot on the turn that Dudek did well to turn around the post for a corner.
The keeper eventually cleared and Owen flicked the over bar, and the advancing Lehmann. A decent opportunity.
Liverpool were dominating and Arsenal's equaliser in the 31st minute was a surprise. Pires swung a free-kick over from the right and Edu, who had been in discussion over putting the ball in himself, appeared at the far post to scuff home a header that deflected off Sami Hyypia.
Ashley Cole and Ray Parlour were booked in quick succession as Arsenal defended themselves against Liverpool's vigorous response. Parlour created some respite himself by thumping a shot just wide just before the break.
Owen spurned another chance after restart by nodding a firm header just over the bar. But, for the first time in the game, Arsenal sustained some pressure on the Liverpool goal. Gilberto nodded wide from corner then Henry forced Dudek into a low save,
Then came that cracker from Pires in the 68th minute.
It stunned Liverpool but they upped the tempo again. From Kewell's corner, Cole hacked off the line after Arsenal failed to corner and El Hadji Diouf managed to produce an overhead kick in the crowded area. However the nearest they came was when Anthony Le Tallec curled a fearsome looking drive just wide.
A superb win and, despite the slow start, a professional performance.
|Send us your post-match views|
|Aliadiere and Biscan battle for the ball||Edu connects with Pires' free-kick..|
|..and the ball deflects in||Our Brazilian celebrates his goal|
|Pires shapes to shoot...||..and curls in a spectacular winner|
|Edu sees his glancing header go in off Liverpool's Sami Hyypia|
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|Robert Pires celebrates scoring our winning goal|
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