Arsenal bite back against Liverpool
Arsenal 1 Liverpool 0
Arsenal kept their slim Barclays Premier League title hopes alive with a narrow win over Liverpool at Emirates Stadium.
Abou Diaby finally got the breakthrough on 72 minutes, when he headed in Tomas Rosicky's cross as the Gunners bounced back from successive defeats to Manchester United and Chelsea.
Liverpool, who are just ahead of Manchester City in fourth place, almost grabbed a late equaliser when substitute Ryan Babel saw his shot tipped onto the bar.
They do not play ‘big four' opposition again this season and will feel their campaign is back on track after those successive defeats.
Serious questions have been asked about Arsenal's credentials to win a first Premier League crown since 2004 but, on this evidence, there is life in them yet.
Gunners boss Arsene Wenger made changes from the side beaten by Chelsea at the weekend, which left them some nine points off the leaders, However, the Blues' subsequent defeat by Everton tonight means that deficit was quickly reduced.
Theo Walcott dropped to the bench, as Nicklas Bendtner, who had been out following groin surgery, made a welcome first start since October.
While Arsenal had been faltering, Liverpool slowly moved themselves back up into the top four.
The Gunners' frailty at the back was exposed again on five minutes when a free-kick bobbled alarmingly around the six-yard box before Manuel Almunia gathered.
At the other end, William Gallas — yet to confirm whether he will be staying with Arsenal — headed over.
Liverpool remained patient, although David Ngog snatched at his shot after working some space at the edge of the Arsenal area.
Much like at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, the Gunners had plenty of possession, but without looking dangerous in the final third.
Samir Nasri's low ball in from the right was cut out by Martin Skrtel, as Bendtner arrived behind him through the six-yard box.
The Dane was then played in by Andrey Arshavin, but shot over.
Arsenal were finally having a decent spell, with Nasri's shot charged down by Emiliano Insua.
The Argentina defender then saw his goal-bound effort deflect off Thomas Vermaelen.
On 34 minutes, Nasri, who earlier appeared to take a blow to the side of his face, was replaced by Tomas Rosicky.
Neither side were able to make the most of some promising build-up play as the first half drew to a close.
Arsenal, though, had more urgency following the restart, as livewire Arshavin drilled the ball into the side-netting.
At the other end, Lucas Leiva drilled his angled shot over after being played into the right side of the Arsenal penalty area by Dirk Kuyt.
Steven Gerrard's determination released Ngog down the middle, but Gallas recovered to make a brilliant saving tackle just inside the 18-yard box.
Rosicky's touch was then too heavy after the Czech Republic winger was put clear down the left channel by Arshavin.
Bendtner's deft chip almost crept over the line after Jose Reina could only make a partial save, but Daniel Agger cleared.
However, on 63 minutes, referee Howard Webb showed Bendtner a yellow card for diving under a challenge by Agger, although replays suggested there may have been minimal contact.
Arshavin missed his kick when arriving at pace in the penalty area to meet Gael Clichy's cross, with Rosicky blasting the loose ball over.
Arsenal made the breakthrough after 72 minutes, when Diaby arrived on cue at the far post to head in Rosicky's right-wing cross.
Liverpool felt they had a strong penalty claim when Gerrard went down under a mass of red shirts, appearing to be blocked by Diaby, but the referee waved play on.
The visitors almost snatched an equaliser with four minutes left, but Almunia tipped a dipping drive from substitute Babel onto the crossbar.
In stoppage time, there was more controversy when a dubious free-kick from Gerrard appeared to strike Cesc Fabregas on the hand, but referee Webb was not interested, much to the displeasure of the visiting players and boss Rafael Benitez.