Martin Skrtel heads late equalizer to earn Liverpool a 2-2 draw with Arsenal in Premier League



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LIVERPOOL, England — Martin Skrtel powered home a header deep into stoppage time to earn 10-man Liverpool a 2-2 draw against Arsenal in the Premier League on Sunday.

In the seventh of nine minutes of injury time, Skrtel leaped high to head a right-wing corner from Adam Lallana into the bottom corner.

Despite being mostly outplayed, Arsenal recovered from conceding a 45th-minute goal to Philippe Coutinho by scoring in first-half injury time through Mathieu Debuchy before Olivier Giroud swept home from close range in the 64th.

Substitute Fabio Borini was sent off two minutes into stoppage time for picking up two quick bookings, yet there was still time for Skrtel to rescue a point for Liverpool, which climbed a place to 10th. Arsenal is sixth, four points of the top four.

It was the least Liverpool deserved for an effervescent performance that overran Arsenal at times but exposed the team's biggest problem this season — a lack of a true goal scorer to finish off the glut of chances created.

In the end, the Reds relied on a center back to get the team out of trouble — in a lengthy period of injury time allotted after Skrtel himself was trodden on by Giroud early in the second half, requiring a long stoppage to put eight staples into his bleeding head.

"He is a strong character, a real warrior, and thankfully he stayed on and scored a great header," Rodgers said.

In Liverpool's situation, though, a point is not enough if last season's runner-up is to climb back into the Champions League places. With almost half the season gone, Liverpool is nine points behind fourth-place West Ham.

"There is a bit of work to do but at least we are moving in the right direction," Rodgers said.

"Our performance today was outstanding: the passing and intensity and the pressing in our game is starting to return."

Arsenal has been guilty of starting big games slowly in recent years and the team did so again here, with Liverpool's pace and movement too much for Arsene Wenger's side and Mathieu Flamini being badly exposed as Arsenal's holding midfielder.

Liverpool's fluid 3-4-3 formation, again containing winger Raheem Sterling as a main striker, seemed to befuddle Arsenal and the only surprise was that it took almost 45 minutes for the home side to score — and even then it was from an error.

Giroud's misjudged lay-off was pounced on by Jordan Henderson, who slipped the ball forward for Coutinho to jink past Debuchy and strike a low shot in off the post from just inside the area.

Outplayed, Arsenal did not deserve to go into halftime level but that was what happened after Flamini nodded a loose ball in the area onto Debuchy, whose header brushed against the back of Skrtel's head and deflected into the net. It was almost the last touch of the half.

The second half started with Skrtel needing lengthy treatment after being stamped on the head by Giroud, and the striker inflicted more pain on Liverpool by putting Arsenal ahead.

Giroud passed out wide to Santi Cazorla, whose return pass from the byline was met with a first-time finish from six meters through goalkeeper Brad Jones' legs.

Lucas Leiva, Coutinho and Borini all wasted decent chances but Liverpool's chance of an equalizer looked to have disappeared when Borini raked his studs across the chest and left arm of Cazorla. Less than three minutes earlier, the Italian forward had been booked for chucking the ball away after a throw-in was awarded against him.

Skrtel, who scored twice against Arsenal in Liverpool's 5-1 win in the corresponding fixture last season, came to the team's rescue with his late goal.

"We had problems to get our flow going," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. "Maybe bad memories from last year. Some players were not at their best."

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