1 - 0 Theo Walcott 2'
1 - 1 Robin van Persie 44' PK
Arsenal took a point today from the league champions at the Emirates, although on another day the match could easily have gone totally in their favor. The end of the season is going to be tight again, folks, so everyone strap in and get on belay.
Anyhow, the match:
Arsenal started out white-hot after giving the visitors their guard of honor. It took no time at all for the Gunners to pull ahead, van Persie giving the ball away in midfield. Lukas Podolski fed Tomas Rosicky, who then played a pass through the right channel behind Patrice Evra to an admittedly offside Theo Walcott. The linesman did not flag, however, and Walcott slotted a shot under David de Gea's right arm to put Arsenal in the lead.
The match settled down after that moment, for the most part, United getting combobulated. Arsenal found it increasingly difficult to maintain possession as the half went on, which follows the pattern of most Arsenal-United clashes; there has rarely been a team that can consistently pressure Arsenal without the ball like Sir Alex Ferguson's teams have in the past few years. Phil Dowd was handing out yellow cards left and right; Phil Jones earned the first 17 minutes on, shortly before he headed United's first golden counter chance wide.
Rafael and Johnny Evans earned yellows before Aaron Ramsey missed an opportunity to play Theo Walcott through on goal on a counter in the 32nd. Nani was lining up a shot four minutes later, but a sliding Per Mertesacker made a great last-second tackle. Three minutes later, Wojciech Szczesny would be called into action, fairly Schmeicheling a point-blank van Persie header, totally spread eagle, the ball smashing him in the face, requiring a moment to recover.
Bacary Sagna was playing well on the right against Nani, too, making a wonderful last-moment intervention as Nani was trying to volley home an Antonio Valencia cross. But his day was about to go from normal to baby-seal-murder-oh-god in a hurry. 43 minutes in, he played an exceptionally lazy backpass straight to van Persie, and in an effort to recover, he needlessly slid in to challenge one of the world's best strikers in the penalty area. There was no need to leave his feet, and the result was predictable. Penalty, yellow card, and United had a handhold back into the match. van Persie bured his penalty kick, did not celebrate, and leveled the scoreline.
Halftime arrived to general disappointment.
The second half continued the pattern, with United looking more and more to score on the counter. Tomas Rosicky toepoked a shot just wide soon after the start, and that was Arsenal's last shot in anger for a while. Jack Wilshere replaced him on the 62nd minute, which was a curious sub, as there was nothing that Wilshere could bring to the side that wasn't already there, not creativity (Rosicky) or industry (Ramsey). Nonetheless, it happened. Bacary Sagna whiffed on a pass to him shortly thereafter, continuing his oddly disaffected day.
Gervinho replaced Lukas Podolski before Anderson replaced Rafael for the visitors. Theo Walcott tried to squeeze a shot through, but it was blocked, in the 76th minute. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain replaced Ramsey; Ryan Giggs replaced Nani. In the 86th minute, Kieran Gibbs looked to have been taken out in the box by Rio Ferdinand, but no call came. United countered viciously from an Arsenal attack just before the end of 90 minutes, but Ryan Giggs couldn't get a shot off before Arsenal recovered, and the effort that finally came was deflected wide. A Patrice Evra header late on was the last real chance for either side, and Phil Dowd brought things to a close.
It was a hard-fought 1-1, and a point that Arsenal would've taken in advance from the fixture, perhaps, but on the day, it does feel a little disappointing to lose two more points due to a mental breakdown. On another day, with a little more luck, Arsenal could have won, but the margins, they are fine, are they not?
Next up: Saturday, and QPR at
the Emirates Loftus Road (their horrible camera angles have already confused me, you see). Let's go.