Robin van Persie struck an injury-time winner as Arsenal dealt Liverpool’s hopes of Champions League qualification a shattering blow with a 2-1 victory at Anfield.
Dutch international van Persie volleyed home magnificently in the third minute of stoppage time to claim his second of the match and take his season’s tally to 31 in all competitions.
Van Persie’s last-gasp winner saw Arsene Wenger’s side cement their grip on fourth place, and moved the Londoners to within four points of third-placed Tottenham who play Manchester United today.
But the defeat left Liverpool with a mountain to climb, with 10 points now separating them from Arsenal in fourth.
Van Persie admitted Liverpool had been unlucky to lose.
“I don’t think we deserved it if I’m being honest,” said the striker. “Liverpool played better but to nick it like that – we can only be pleased. It’s a big win.”
The defeat was cruel on the Merseysiders, who had dominated throughout only to be denied by a string of saves from Wojciech Sczesny and the woodwork. Szczesny needed to be alert from the outset, reacting swiftly in the 10th minute to snuff out a break from Luis Suarez before dealing with Stewart Downing’s follow-up.
Szczesny then pulled off a superb double save as Liverpool missed their sixth penalty of the campaign after the Arsenal keeper was adjudged to have brought down Suarez following a one-two with Dirk Kuyt.
Kuyt’s spot-kick was firm but Szczesny guessed correctly, diving to his right to block before springing back to deny Kuyt’s attempted rebound.
Liverpool took the lead on 23 minutes, Koscielny turning Jordan Henderson’s whipped low cross into his own net past Szczesny. But Arsenal levelled in the 31st minute with van Persie scoring his first.
A draw seemed the likeliest result before van Persie volleyed home on the full to clinch a dramatic win.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 4th, 2012.