Former Arsenal striker Robin van Persie returned to haunt his old club, scoring the goal that denied the Gunners a vital victory against Manchester United; in the race for the top four.
Prior to the game there was speculation as to whether Arsenal would provide United with a guard of honour, a feature which has been awarded to previous league winners, in order to reduce crowd tension. However it went ahead and United, including the former Arsenal captain Van Persie, were paraded onto the pitch, much to the displeasure of the home crowd.
The game itself got off to a frantic start, with the home side immediately into their stride; taking the lead after just two minutes through Theo Walcott. There was a suggestion that the England striker was offside in the build up, but the flag remained down and he calmly slotted the ball under keeper David De Gea.
It was the ideal start that Arsenal wanted, and they remained on top for the opening half hour; dominating territory and possession. However they failed to get the second goal that their flowing and aggressive football had merited. They were then made to pay for not increasing their advantage, when United were awarded a penalty in the forty third minute. Having misplaced a pass to Van Persie, Bacary Sagna lunged in on the Dutchman for a clear foul. The £24 million striker then powered the ball home, silencing the fans that had booed him throughout the first half.
The second period was a different story as United were the team quickest out of the blocks, whilst the Gunners struggled to get a grip on the game. They were sloppy in possession and struggled to deal with the threat posed by the Red Devils’ front line. On fifty one minutes, United could have taken the lead, but Wayne Rooney was just unable to reach Van Persie’s drilled cross.
Just shy of the hour mark, Rooney again had a great chance to score, only for his point blank header to hit Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczęsny in the face.
The remainder of the game was a close and keenly contested affair, with both teams knocking on the door but unable to find the breakthrough.
The point Leaves Arsenal under a lot of pressure in the race to secure a top four place, as they are now just two points ahead of their north London rivals Tottenham; who have a game in hand.
As for United, the only implication for them is that they cannot win the league by a record number of points. However having secured their 20th league title on Monday night, this will not bother Sir Alex Ferguson or his team.
One thing is for sure, the race for champions league qualification will go right down to the wire. If Spurs were to win their game in hand, Arsenal maybe facing their first season without Champions League football for sixteen years.
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