Belfast Telegraph

In Pictures: AZ Alkmaar 1 Arsenal 1

Arsenal were hit by a stoppage-time equaliser as AZ Alkmaar earned a draw in tonight's Champions League Group H clash.

Cesc Fabregas' first-half strike had looked to be enough to secure a third straight European victory, which would have all but secured Arsenal a place in the knockout stages.

However, the Dutch side, managed by Ronald Koeman, refused to give up and snatched a point at the death through Mendes Da Silva.

The fact AZ remained resilient should have come as no surprise given they had previously lost just once at home in Europe, against Everton two years ago, from 34 games.

Off the field, however, the Dutch club have some financial worries after owner Dirk Scheringa was declared bankrupt, the immediate impact of which was the team playing without shirt sponsors.

In stark contrast to their last European away game, when going 2-0 down inside five minutes at Liege, Arsenal were quickly on the offensive.

Van Persie, who netted in his fourth straight game against Birmingham on Saturday, charged at the centre of the AZ defence but was barged off possession by Niklas Moisander.

On eight minutes, Abou Diaby broke down the right, and whipped the ball back towards the far post, where Van Persie brought it down and drilled a shot goalwards, which Argentina international Sergio Romero gathered at the second attempt.

The hosts continued to enjoy good possession, but without a cutting edge in the final third.

AZ created their first decent opening on 26 minutes when Moussa Dembele fed Mounir El Hamdaoui on the edge of the Arsenal area, and the former Tottenham striker fired his shot flew just over.

Emmanuel Eboue was put clear down the right channel, and sent over a first-time cross which Andrey Arshavin met at the far post before floating it back over the goalkeeper but onto the roof of the net.

Arsenal finally got it right after 35 minutes when Fabregas swept them ahead.

Alex Song intercepted a stray pass from Moisander, before feeding Arshavin who put Van Persie in on the left side of the penalty area. Unselfishly, the Dutchman drew the goalkeeper, before squaring to Fabregas who slotted home.

Arsenal suddenly looked a much more cohesive outfit, with Arshavin finding more space down the left.

Fabregas curled an effort goalwards from 20 yards, but it was straight at the AZ goalkeeper.

Romero then spilled an 18-yard shot from Van Persie, but luckily the ball flew wide.

Arsenal continued to press at the start of the second half.

Eboue was tripped by Hector Moreno 25 yards out in a central position.

Van Persie whipped the free-kick around the wall, but Romero was down quickly to make a fine save.

Arsenal's Dutch frontman felt he should have had a penalty when turning on the goalline between two AZ defenders - but Swedish referee Martin Hansson was not interested.

Arsenal remained in control, with Song breaking up possession ahead of the back four.

Van Persie was allowed the space to run at the AZ defence, but blazed over from the edge of the penalty area.

There was, however, a let-off for Arsenal on 72 minutes when a corner deflected off Diaby and onto the top of the crossbar.

Van Persie was given a rest when Mexican striker Carlos Vela came on.

A free-kick then caused chaos in the Arsenal six-yard box, but Moreno was not able to convert.

Vela looked to have a strong penalty claim denied when he appeared to be tripped by Kew Jaliens after darting in from the left channel.

Arshavin saw a low shot saved by Romero.

Just as Arsenal looked to have done enough, AZ snatched a dramatic equaliser in time added on, when Mendes Da Silva blasted in from close range after Moreno's ball into the box had been flicked on by substitute Graziano Pelle.

Belfast Telegraph


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