Gunners go top after Anfield draw

 

Liverpool 1 Arsenal 1:Cesc Fabregas' strike with 10 minutes remaining ensured Arsenal returned to the top of the Premier League table after a thrilling 1-1 draw with Liverpool at Anfield.

The hosts were intent on giving Arsenal a fierce examination, and when Steven Gerrard blasted home from 20 yards on seven minutes it was clear the north Londoners were in for a fierce battle.

Liverpool clung onto that lead until 10 minutes from time — but Fabregas maintained the Gunners' unbeaten run this season to deservedly reward their efforts.

The Merseyside club are also still unbeaten in the league this term, and their performance will have done much to wipe away the misery of the midweek Champions League defeat against Besiktas.

Boss Rafael Benitez sprung a surprise by naming three strikers — Fernando Torres returned from injury, while Dirk Kuyt and Andriy Voronin were deployed on either flank.

Xabi Alonso also returned from injury, leaving skipper Gerrard to play his 400th game for the club on the right.

Arsenal made just one change from the side that beat Slavia Prague 7-0 in midweek, with Theo Walcott dropping to the bench and Tomas Rosicky returning.

Voronin picked up an early booking for a foul on Fabregas. But Arsenal conceded possession from their own free-kick and Alonso charged towards the box, to be tripped in full flow by the Spaniard in the seventh minute.

John Arne Riise's tapped free-kick was crashed into the back of the net, past an unsighted Manuel Almunia, by Gerrard.

Arsenal tore into Liverpool, causing Sami Hyypia and Jamie Carragher plenty of problems at the heart of the home defence.

Hyypia and Carragher needed to hurl themselves at efforts from Rosicky and Kolo Toure, before Carragher required treatment for a crack on the head from an Emmanuel Adebayor challenge.

The hosts were forced into a half-time change.

Torres had seemingly damaging his calf in a first-half fall — so Peter Crouch, who scored a hat-trick in this fixture last season, entered the fray.

Rosicky was booked for a late tackle on Alonso, before Crouch struck a fierce 25-yard effort that Almunia turned away at full stretch.

Arsenal almost equalised in the 54th minute when Adebayor surged into space on the right to crack a shot against the foot of a post, the ball bouncing out for Fabregas to fire over an open goal.

Javier Mascherano was booked for a foul on Bacary Sagna a minute later, as Arsenal pressed harder and harder.

Liverpool were now hitting on the break as they soaked up waves of Arsenal attacks.

Crouch won plenty of flick-ons and saw another long-range effort thud into Almunia's chest.

Gerrard and Voronin then set up Crouch for a run into the box and cross-shot which flashed just wide.

Toure was booked for halting a Kuyt run in the 64th minute, Yossi Benayoun replacing Voronin before the free-kick could be taken.

When Gerrard fired it into the box, Alonso's header was kicked away from an open goal by Toure.

Walcott replaced Rosicky and Alonso limped away to be replaced by Alvaro Arbeloa.

Arsenal sent on Gilberto and Nicklas Bendtner for Clichy and Emmanuel Eboue in the 74th minute, just seconds before Kuyt's dipping volley cleared Almunia and skimmed the top of the net.

But the Gunners levelled after Alexander Hleb's run on the left created the space for Fabregas to squeeze home the equaliser, wrong-footing Jose Reina with a toe-poke from eight yards.

Fabregas then hit the post from 20 yards on 86 minutes, with Bendtner firing the rebound over the bar.

Crouch's touch sent Gerrard surging into the box and only Mathieu Flamini's block stopped the Liverpool captain.

Carragher was then booked for a foul on Adebayor but Liverpool hung on and were even coming forward at the end — although a draw was a fair result.