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Page last updated at 18:39 GMT, Sunday, 13 December 2009

Sunday football as it happened

GOALFLASHES AND MAJOR INCIDENTS (all times GMT)

606: DEBATE

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By Chris Bevan

1835: That's a wrap from me - I hope you enjoyed today... not as many fireworks as the last meeting between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield, but still an entertaining and intense encounter. Catch the goals on MOTD2 on BBC 2 and this website (UK only) at 2255 GMT... from the sublime (Andrey Arshavin) to the ridiculous (Glen Johnson). If you need a bigger sporting fix then you're in luck - Sports Personality of the Year is on BBC 1 and this website (UK only again) at 1900 GMT... follow all the events in Sheffield right here with Saj Chowdhury. Enjoy.

From Jon in Manchester, via text: "It's not all bad news for Liverpool... their superior goal difference means they're still above Birmingham."

1827: Here's Rafa Benitez on that challenge by William Gallas on Steven Gerrard which Liverpool felt should have led to a first-half penalty: "The ball was in play, inside the box - it was a penalty." And here's Gunners boss Arsene Wenger on the same incident: "There was contact, but after the ball was lost - the ball was out. Personally I didn't think it was a penalty but that is only my opinion."

From Vermalean- Man of Steel. on 606: "Blame the ref, blame the ref. But you have to say, Liverpool were embarassingly terrible. No Champions League, No Premier League, No Carling Cup. Looks bad, very bad."

1824: Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez on his side's home defeat by Arsenal: "In the first half we were really good, scored goal and were on top all the time. Everything changed in the second half. We lost our confidence, they had more confidence. We were giving the ball away far too easily. We were not passing it properly. The only way we can change things is to keep doing the same things we were doing and then we will win these games."

1817: BBC Sport's Phil McNulty at Anfield: "Vital win for Arsenal to back up Arsene Wenger's claim that they are still in the Premier League title race - but real damage to Rafael Benitez's guarantee that Liverpool will finish in the top four. Anfield ended the game in virtual silence as Arsenal closed out the win with barely a moment of alarm."

From Adam, Chelsea fan, via text: "Liverpool are 13 points off 1st and 13 points off 20th, where are they more likley to finish?"

1810: Arsene Wenger on his side's comeback to win at Anfield: "It was down to a mixture of our desire to do well and our fear of a big game that we were not ourselves in the first half. Liverpool had a great first half but we were within ourselves and playing with the handbrake on - it was different in the second half. Are we back in the title race? Mathematically, yes. Mentally - certainly. "

From powerdel on 606: "Rafa to say 'the season starts now' yet again."


1802: Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen on Arsene Wenger's angry half-time team-talk that inspired the Gunners' comeback: "I've never seen him before like that and we reacted very well. It was very important for us to win today - we have closed the gap a little bit and we are back in the race I think."

1758: Arsenal show what they are made of, and get back into the thick of the title fight, with a stirring second-half display. The Gunners go third, six points behind leaders Chelsea and three points behind Manchester United - but with a game in hand. Liverpool must be sick of the sight of Andrey Arshavin - his stunning winner means they stay in seventh place, seven points behind Arsene Wenger's side.

From «Mägîçk•NemØ» on 606: "Usual rubbish, we go one ahead looking good, and then a couple of defensive mistakes means we are chasing the game. But do we chase the game with intent? No, we start playing rubbish and our first half performance goes to nothing."

Full time
1754: FULL-TIME Liverpool 1-2 Arsenal

1753: It's Arsenal who are on the attack, and they have another free-kick on the right when Steven Gerrard is penalised. The Gunners are playing keepball, with just seconds left.

1751: Another substitution by Arsenal. Off comes Andrey Arshavin, to be replaced by Aaron Ramsey. Liverpool cannot get the ball into the Arsenal half.

1750: The 90 minutes are up. We will have four minutes of injury time at Anfield.

1749: There's still time for Liverpool but Arsenal are defending well, so Jamie Carragher has to send in a cross from very deep. Fernando Torres does well to leap to meet it, but cannot find enough power or direction to threaten Manuel Almunia's goal.

1747: Less than three minutes of the 90 left and Arsenal are looking to shut up shop. Mikael Silvestre comes on for Armand Traore.

From George, via text: "If the score stays the same then what can this defeat be blamed on? Liverpool are at home with Torres, Gerrard and Aquilani playing and will be level on points with Birmingham."

1744: Philipp Degen comes on for Glen Johnson but his first contribution is to over-hit a cross from the right. Liverpool need to test Manuel Almunia again - they have not done properly so since they scored.

1741: Howard Web books Andrey Arshavin for a foul on Daniel Agger, and Samir Nasri quickly joins him in being yellow after kicking the ball away following another free-kick. Arsenal are defending deep, and in numbers.

1739: Another change by Liverpool. David Ngog is on for Yossi Benayoun - the Reds have 10 minutes left to find an equaliser.

1738: More pressure from Liverpool. Fabio Aurelio finds Dirk Kuyt with a superb ball into the box. Kuyt's first touch is good, but his second is poor - his pull-back dribbles into Manuel Almunia's hands.

1736: Liverpool have hardly bombarded the Arsenal goal since going behind but they have just had their best spell of the second half. A dangerous Steven Gerrard free-kick is headed out by Thomas Vermaelen, and Arsenal are under more pressure from the resulting corner before Howard Webb blows for a Liverpool foul.


From Rick, via text: "As a Man Utd fan I'm torn: watching Liverpool implode again at Anfield is great, but Arsenal are worryingly close in the table."

1733: The man of the moment, Andrey Arshavin, has another pop at goal from the edge of the area. Amazingly, this time he doesn't score... the ball flies straight at Pepe Reina.

orlenschlink on Twitter: "Re jamesj12. He was offside because Gallas was the last Arsenal defender not the second to last. Forgotten the offside rule?"

1730: Lots of effort by Liverpool and a decent amount of possession too, although none of it is in the final third. When the ball does arrive in the danger zone, Dirk Kuyt's cross is easily cleared.

1729: Arsenal make a change. Abou Diaby is on for Theo Walcott. We've got 20 minutes left.

JonesMike101 on Twitter: "Benitez gulps down hard, a bead of sweat rolls down his temple. In it we see a reflection of his future... the job centre."

1726: BBC Sport's Phil McNulty at Anfield: "Andrey Arshavin has some strike rate at Anfield. Four shots four goals last season and now one shot one goal this season. And a cracker it was too. Arsenal, helped by a slice of luck for their equaliser, are a team transformed. Rafael Benitez is trying to lift his side as they reel from those two blows - and now we also have a test of Arsenal's mettle."

1725: Yep, on comes Alberto Aquilani, replacing Javier Mascherano.

From zakattack1888 on 606: "Come on Arsenal lets finish this game off."

1723: Just over an hour gone at Anfield. Rafa Benitez is about to send Alberto Aquilani on for a rescue mission.

1721: Liverpool might be behind but they are still right in this match. Steven Gerrard takes out two Arsenal players and one of his own (Dirk Kuyt) as he tussles for the ball in the right-hand corner, then sends over a cross for Fernando Torres to flick his header wide.

Goooooooaaaaaaaaal
Arsenal goal: The Gunners have turned this game on its head. A cross from the right is flicked on to Andrey Arshavin, who takes a touch before burying an unstoppable shot into the top corner of the net, with the ball brushing the post on its way in. That was a brilliant finish.

1718: GOALFLASH Liverpool 1-2 Arsenal (Arshavin)

Yellow card
1717: Javier Mascherano catches Cesc Fabregas very late and rightly goes into Howard Webb's book. We've had three yellow cards now - the others have been shown to Fabio Aurelio and Denilson - which is not that many considering the amount of tackles that have been flying in.

1713: That goal has silenced the home fans but Fernando Torres almost gets them going again. The Spaniard weaves his way to the bye-line and fires in a tricky cross-shot that causes Manuel Almunia a few problems... but the Arsenal keeper keeps it out.

Goooooooaaaaaaaaal
Arsenal goal: An absolute disaster for Liverpool defender Glen Johnson. Samir Nasri sends over a low cross from the right, which takes a slight touch off Jamie Carragher and hits Johnson before rolling past the wrong-footed Pepe Reina and into the net. We are all-square again.

1710: GOALFLASH Liverpool 1-1 Arsenal (Johnson og)

1709: Arsenal respond with a dangerous cross by Bacary Sagna, but Andrey Arshavin is not exactly the ideal target-man for a ball like that, and Liverpool clear. From the resulting corner, Cesc Fabregas has a pop from the left-hand corner of the area but Pepe Reina is down to make a comfortable save.

1706: Liverpool don't take very long to test Manuel Almunia again. Steven Gerrard whips in a cross from the right... this time the Arsenal goalkeeper punches convincingly clear.

jamesj12 on Twitter: "Re KingSi, how can Lucas be offside, when Gallas was standing behind him, virtually in the goal?"

1705: No changes from either side at the break. Liverpool get the second-half started.

1703: It's fair to say that Arsenal are going to have to improve a lot in the second half if they are going to salvage anything from this game - Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina was not a busy man in the first 45 minutes. Time to find out what Arsene Wenger has got up his sleeve...

From Glum Gunners Fan, via text: "Never win anything with kids? Definitely not with vertically-challenged kids! We are second to everything - this is painful to watch."

1657: Here's Macca the Stat again... although I'm afraid Arsenal fans may not like his latest missive too much: "Dirk Kuyt may not be everyone's cup of tea, but when he scores it is generally good news for Liverpool. In the five matches he has scored this season Liverpool have won all of them and their aggregate score is 14-2. Personally, I'd just love a cup of tea."

KingSi on Twitter: "Re 1642. No real complaints about Lucas's challenge, but surely when Kuyt's shot goes past him he's interfering with play & offside?"

1650: BBC Sport's Phil McNulty at Anfield: "Liverpool fully deserve their lead at the interval. Rafael Benitez's side have at least shown real intent while Arsenal have been desperately poor, barely posing a threat and conceding possession regularly in a manner that has had manager Arsene Wenger gesticulating in frustration in his technical area.


"Manuel Almunia will not be proud of his part in the goal - those who still persist with the "Almunia For England" call should really give up now - as he failed to deal with Fabio Aurelio's free-kick and was another example of the goalkeeping uncertainty that is also currently affecting Chelsea and Manchester United."

Half time
1650: HALF-TIME Liverpool 1-0 Arsenal

1649: Some determined play by Fernando Torres as he chases a lost cause near the corner flag. He slides in three times on Armand Traore, and is probably lucky not to make contact with the Arsenal defender - that was pretty wild.

1646: Arsenal pump the free-kick into the box but that's never going to be their best bet for finding an equaliser. Liverpool clear - we're into two added minutes at the end of the first half.

1645: Theo Walcott goes down after being blocked off by Fabio Aurelio as they chase a long ball over the top. Jamie Carragher got away with something similar in the first few minutes but this time Arsenal get a free-kick and Aurelio is in the book.

Goooooooaaaaaaaaal
Liverpool goal: A soft goal from Arsenal's point of view and one to forget for Gunners goalkeeper Manuel Almunia, who flaps at a Fabio Aurelio free-kick and can only weakly punch the ball to Dirk Kuyt, who brings the ball down and slams it into the net. Almunia might have been impeded by Lucas, but he still should have done a lot better there.

1642: GOALFLASH Liverpool 1-0 Arsenal (Kuyt)

Im_Partial on Twitter: "If Xabi is there, let's get him into his kit so he can come on and save the day!"

1641: Here's Macca the Stat, imploring us not to give up on a goalfest just yet: "Not much sign of a repeat of that 4-4 thriller at Anfield last season as yet, but remember the opener in that crazy match wasn't until the 36th minute."

1640: Around five minutes left until the break and the tempo hasn't dropped at Anfield. Lots happening in midfield - but not much of note in either penalty area at the moment.

1637: Denilson tries to lob Pepe Reina from 30 yards or so, but fails to get enough height or power in his shot and the Reds keeper collects comfortably. Samir Nasri has a better effort with Arsenal's next attack, but his shot is a few yards wide - the Gunners are yet to properly threaten so far.

Xabi Alonso watches his former Liverpool team-mates
Alonso is back at Anfield - but only in the stands
1634: Good news for Liverpool fans... Xabi Alonso is back at Anfield. Well, sort of. The popular former Reds midfielder hasn't been re-signed from Real Madrid but he is in the stands watching today's match. I'm pretty sure some Liverpool fans wish he was back in their midfield...

1631: No need for any changes yet. Gallas and Mascherano are both able to carry on. When play restarts, Steven Gerrard has a rasping shot from the edge of the box blocked. Liverpool are still on top.

1629: Arsenal have injury problems too. William Gallas is struggling with a hip injury.

1628: Javier Mascherano is down on the ground and looks in a lot of pain. He was hurt in a the challenge by Denilson that led to Steven Gerrard's free-kick, but seems to have picked up a fresh injury.

1627: Manuel Almunia makes a bit of a hash of a deep Fabio Aurelio cross to his far post - he drops the ball but it is hacked clear. The Gunners keeper does a lot better with a Steven Gerrard free-kick soon afterwards, punching the ball clear under pressure after it is curled dangerously goalwards.

1625: A big reason why Liverpool have had the better of the opening 20 minutes or so is Javier Mascherano. The Argentine is bossing the midfield for Liverpool.

craigmarch on Twitter: "I am livid with Howard Webb!!! You will never see a clearer penalty shout than that. Ever."

1624: Another decent build-up by Liverpool sees Glen Johnson burst into the box. He rides a challenge and does well to stay on his feet but his final ball finds William Gallas, not a red-shirted team-mate... chance gone.

1622: Theo Walcott feeds Bacary Sagna on the right, but his cross is cleared by Jamie Carragher. Arsenal have not opened Liverpool up at all yet.

1619: BBC Sport's Phil McNulty at Anfield: "Arsenal have been uncharacteristically careless in possession so far and Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard look dangerous. Gerrard looked to be brought down by William Gallas in the area but Howard Webb ignored Liverpool's penalty appeals. Liverpool's captain was criticised for going to ground easily in the area at Blackburn last week - has he just paid for that moment here at Anfield?"

1617: Arsenal's first effort on goal quickly follows, but it's not a good one. Thomas Vermaelen does well to rise to meet a free-kick but cannot keep his header down and it sails well over.

1616: Liverpool feel they should have a penalty when William Gallas sends Steven Gerrard flying in the box and, to be fair, it is a decent shout. The ball had already gone out for a goal-kick but that's beside the point - surely? Not if you're Howard Webb it's not. The referee is having none of it.

1614: First golden chance - and it goes Liverpool's way. Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard link up brilliantly, and the Spaniard runs clean through to meet the return pass - only to fire his shot straight at Manuel Almunia.

renny49 on Twitter: "Arsenal not settled yet, second to every 50-50 and generally looking nervous."

1612: Good work from Glen Johnson, who makes ground from the right for Liverpool and feeds Fernando Torres... who promptly gives the ball away. That's the story of the game so far - lots of good intention but everything is breaking down in the final third.

1609: The tackles are flying in already and Liverpool's Javier Mascherano, in particular, is a busy man. Neither side have had a sight of goal yet, but Liverpool are starting to look a little more dangerous coming forward.

From Sam in London, via text: "Come on Arsenal, we have to capitalise on days such as yesterday to give ourselves a good shot at the title."

1605: A swift passing move from Arsenal ends when Theo Walcott forces a first corner for the Gunners. Cesc Fabregas sends it across but Liverpool clear their lines. No chances yet but the game has started at a frenetic pace.

1603: Lucas breaks up an early Arsenal attack and Liverpool play a bit of keepball. The crowd are very lively, as you would expect.

1602: We're off. Arsenal get us started.

1559: Here they come. The teams are out on the pitch... kick-off is just a couple of minutes away. Does the Liverpool revival start here? We are about to find out.

Exodude on Twitter: " I'd love a 5-5 thriller, but my nerves won't take it, they just wont!"

First a plea for 3-3, then a wish for 5-5. Anyone prepared to go any higher?

1555: The stats are definitely on Liverpool's side: Arsenal have not won on any of their previous five league visits to Anfield and have not kept a clean sheet there since 1989. I'm not sure that will count for much once we get started, mind.

malcolmcoles on Twitter: "As an Arsenal fan, I'll take 3-3 today... "

1549: I'm probably not alone in hoping for a classic encounter at Anfield today. But it's going to be very tough to top last season's corresponding clash. I'm sure you haven't forgotten what happened in April... but Andrey Arshavin definitely hasn't.

From Ben, via text: "Lucas is the right choice. Comforting to see two bulldozers in midfield ready to break up Arsenal's attacks, and leave the creativity to Steven Gerrard and Yossi Benayoun."

sparticus on Twitter: "Re 1535. How many corners have Liverpool turned this season? And are all the players turning in the same direction this season?"

1543: BBC Sport's Phil McNulty at Anfield: "Protests outside Anfield today against Liverpool co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillet - and the 'Spirit Of Shankly' group is leafleting around the ground under the slogan 'Tom & George - Not Welcome Here'. Not sure the Americans can take all the blame for Liverpool's woes this season, but still a sign of the discontent that lurks under the surface."

1542: This is how things stand: An Arsenal victory sends them third. If Liverpool win, by more than a two-goal margin, they will move fifth.

1540: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on the importance of today's clash at Anfield: "For us, it is a good opportunity for us to bounce back to a strong position in the league. We know these games are always very heated, very electric, but they are always quality matches. It is game on - let's focus on our own performances, which is the most important thing."

From anon, via text: "If only Arsenal had a striker of Torres's pedigree then I'd be 100% sure we will take Liverpool to the cleaners. That said, come on Gunners - release your full armoury on the Kop!"

1535: Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard on Liverpool's prospects this season: "If we get back to our full-strength team, and we get people fit, we're confident we are good enough to finish in the top four. Torres's return is massive for me, massive for everyone else. He's our main man, he's our top scorer and we need him back fit and firing. We will be right up for the Arsenal match. If we can get three points there and then take that into the Wigan home game next Wednesday, we can turn a corner."

From Paul, via text: "Totally sick of Rafa choosing Lucas in midfield! We need creativity and it's no coincidence we've had a poor run of form with this midfield. He is so stubborn!"

1531: For all the recent talk of a crisis at Anfield, let's not forget Liverpool have only lost one of their last 37 Premier League games on home ground. Both they and Arsenal could really do with a win today, mind.

mildale07 on Twitter: "Glad Lucas starts ahead of Aquilani, whose probably tired, he's a luxury player. I think Lucas will be an important player today."

1526: TEAM NEWS Liverpool v Arsenal (from Phil McNulty at Anfield)
Fernando Torres is back in Liverpool's starting line-up after his appearance as a substitute against Fiorentina in midweek but it is the reverse journey for Alberto Aquilani, who is back on the bench after finally making his first start in the Champions League defeat. Rafael Benitez believes this game could make the start of "a new season" for Liverpool, while Arsene Wenger believes his side can still win the title - so plenty riding on this one.
Theo Walcott and Alex Song start as Emmanuel Eboue and Tomas Rosicky drop out from the Arsenal side that beat Stoke City.

1525: As I mentioned earlier, Brian Laws lost his job as Sheffield Wednesday manager today. Why has it happened and was it the right decision? You might find a few of the answers in the latest blog from Paul Fletcher... we've got 35 minutes until kick-off at Anfield, so use it wisely and have a read.

From Totally_Torres on 606: "Why is Aquilani not playing, seriously!? This game is all about the midfield, so why have we got Lucas playing instead of our slick 20 million pounder!?"

1512: TEAMS Liverpool v Arsenal
Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Agger, Aurelio, Mascherano, Lucas, Kuyt, Gerrard, Benayoun, Torres. Subs: Cavalieri, Aquilani, Insua, Ngog, Degen, Skrtel, Dossena.
Arsenal: Almunia, Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen, Traore, Fabregas, Song Billong, Denilson, Walcott, Arshavin, Nasri. Subs: Fabianski, Diaby, Eduardo, Vela, Ramsey, Silvestre, Wilshere.
Referee: Howard Webb (S Yorkshire)

1510: The boos at the final whistle tell their own story - Middlesbrough boss Gordon Strachan is still without a home win since taking charge on 26 October, and they have now lost six of their last eight games at the Riverside. Cardiff, meanwhile, climb to third in the Championship thanks to their winner from the outstanding Chris Burke.

Full time
1508: FULL-TIME Middlesbrough 0-1 Cardiff City

1507: Brilliant work by Chris Burke, who looks like he is going to waste time near the corner flag but instead heads for goal. He tries to find Michael Chopra at the back stick but Boro clear - that would have sealed it for Cardiff.

1504: We will have four minutes of added time at the Riverside. If Boro are going to level, they will need to get the ball off Cardiff first.

1501: Boro are running out of time to find an equaliser... and fast running out of ideas too. Less than two minutes of the 90 to go, and Cardiff have taken the sting out of this one.

From Derek on 606: "Celtic fans never took to Gordon Strachan, despite him delivering some fantastic Champions League results, several cups and three consecutive league titles and so I wonder - how do Boro fans feel?"

1458: Anthony Gerrard is a very lucky boy. The Cardiff defender, who has already been booked, sends Marcus Bent flying with an aerial challenge but Grant Hegley decides not to get out his book. Hegley has been the man in the middle in 19 games this season and has not shown one red card.

1456: Poor old Brad Jones is not having a great day. The Boro keeper gets in a right old mess after coming out of his line to clear... and is still outside his area when Michael Chopra runs round him and fires a shot goalwards. Luckily for Boro, they have defenders back to clear the danger... don't think Chopra's effort was on target anyway.

1454: Cardiff substitute Kelvin Etuhu has been receiving treatment on the sidelines. He's back on the pitch now but is still limping badly. Cardiff have got one sub left... I think we might see a change very soon.

From liver-brilliant-pool on 606: "Re 1435. With that height average, any players out of favour with Wenger could easily find work making toys in the far far north.."

No elves anywhere in the Premier League, as far as I know. They would certainly fit in at Arsenal but surely Santa can't afford to lose any of his squad at this time of year.

1449: We've got less than 15 minutes left for Boro to get a (real) goal and salvage something from this game. They're certainly due a goal or two at the Riverside - Boro have scored just three in the last 700 minutes of football at their home ground, in a run going back three months.

1447: Referee Grant Hegley plays a good advantage to let a Boro attack continue and it almost sees the home side equalise. Again. Marcus Bent tees up Leroy Lita, whose shot spins an inch past the post... close, but no cigar.

1444: Chris Burke's already got one goal today, and he's just gone very close to getting another one. The Cardiff winger bursts towards the Boro earlier and his curling shot only just clears the bar.

1442: Boro have brought on Dutch Under-21 international Marvin Emnes for Adam Johnson.

1441: Apologies for briefly using the wrong graphic below. It was almost a goal twice, but not a real one. Give me a manual refresh and you will see woodwork instead.


Someone has struck the woodwork
1439: A great response from Boro and almost an instant response. David Wheater heads against the bar and the rebound is smashed goalwards by Sean St Ledger before Leroy Lita (who has just come on for Dave Kitson) has his header cleared off the line by Adam Matthews.

1437: More bad news for Boro. Very bad news. Adam Johnson has injured a hamstring and will have to come off.

Goooooooaaaaaaaaal
Cardiff goal: I know I had been singing Chris Burke's praises but I didn't expect him to get on the scoresheet like this. He whips in a free-kick from 40 yards out on the left... it's intended to be a cross but it goes over a crowd of players, takes a bounce, and flies past a stationary Brad Jones and into the net.

1435: GOALFLASH Middlesbrough 0-1 Cardiff (Burke)

From a worried Gooner, via text: "Did you know the average height of the Arsenal team today will be 4ft 10in?"

That tall? Are you sure?

1431: For Boro's Adam Johnson, read Cardiff's Chris Burke. It's great to see out-and-out wingers running at full-backs and getting crosses in. Kelvin Etuhu is more about pace than trickery but he is doing his best for the Bluebirds on the other flank too - he puts an inviting ball in for Mark Hudson, who skies his shot a mile over the bar.

1428: Cardiff have made another change. Defender Adam Matthews is on for Kevin McNaughton, who has been carrying an injury.

1426: Two decisions go against Boro - first Dave Kitson is called offside, when he was on. Then Cardiff get a corner after Michael Chopra had clearly kicked Jay Bothroyd's cross out of play. Boro clear their lines so no real damage done.

ChrisSmack on Twitter: "To Richie in Dublin, leaving the Champions League would give Liverpool's finances a kicking, and not in the backside."

1421: Middlesbrough winger Adam Johnson doesn't wait long after the restart to impress again. He cuts in from the right before firing over - a disappointing finish, but a great run.

1419: Cardiff get the second half under way.

From Daz at the Riverside, via text: "It has been a good contest at the Riverside in the first half. The support from the crowd is woeful though, loads of empty seats and no noise in the ground."

1418: No team news yet from Anfield, but I'll keep you posted on that... the big news will be whether Liverpool striker Fernando Torres is fit enough to start his first game after six weeks out injured.

From Matt in Israel, via text: "Re 1400. Richie, I'll be nice and say you are a confused Arsenal fan with a soft spot for Liverpool!"

Hmmm. It's fair to say that not too many other Liverpool fans are agreeing with Richie at the moment...

1410: Apparently there have been protests at the Riverside today. Not at Boro's poor home form but at the prospect of 1,700 workers losing their jobs from the local Corus plant in Redcar. Even Boro chairman Steve Gibson got involved, holding a press conference to offer his support.

Backstage at Sports Personality

1408: Half-time gives me a handy chance to remind you all about the Sports Personality of the Year show, which starts at the Sheffield Arena at 1900 GMT, with coverage on BBC 1, Radio 5 Live and this website. Who will win the prestigious award for 2009? One of these 10 contenders, that's who.

1405: Loads of chances - no goals. That's the story at the Riverside so far. It's been entertaining enough, though, and both sides will fancy their chances of going on to win it after the break.

Half time
1403: HALF-TIME Middlesbrough 0-0 Cardiff City

1400: Jay Bothroyd meets a corner at the near post but his header is straight at Brad Jones. This is still a ding-dong battle... only a couple of minutes to go until the break.

From Richie in Dublin, via text: "As a Liverpool fan with a soft spot for Arsenal, a part of me wants Arsenal to win to get up there with Chelsea and Man Utd, instead of dragging them down to the mess we're in. Plus missing out on the Champions League might be the kick up the backside we need, like England missing Euro 2008."

1357: Cardiff's turn to have a couple of pops at goal. Chris Burke brings a comfortable save out of Brad Jones before Jay Bothroyd, who has been quiet so far, bends the ball over from the edge of the area.

Yellow card
1352: Adam Johnson is Middlesbrough's best player so far - running at defenders whenever he can. This time he is sent tumbling by Anthony Gerrard, who is booked by referee Grant Hegley. From the resulting free-kick, Mark Yeates curls a shot towards the top corner but Dave Marshall gets across to push it away. A great save.

From TeleKemis on 606: "Liverpool/Arsenal is an even bigger game than it was this time yesterday given what has happened. Pressure on."

1350: An enforced change for Cardiff, and it's not great news for the Bluebirds. Their top scorer Peter Whittingham has a groin strain and has to be replaced by Kelvin Etuhu.

1349: Cardiff defender Anthony Gerrard is just about able to stretch and head clear an Emanuel Pogatetz cross. Marcus Bent was waiting behind him to slam that one home.

From Bazza in Brisbane, via text: "Come on Cardiff!! These are the games we need to win to get into the Premier League!"

1345: Dave Kitson felt his shot hit Mark Hudson's arm... replays show it did, but a penalty would have been very harsh. Play continues, and Boro's Mark Keates sees his shot from the left fizz past David Marshall's post - I think that was about the 100th chance in the opening half-hour.

1343: A golden chance for Middlesbrough's Marcus Bent, who is in acres of space after latching on to a ball over the top. Bent, who is just onside, should really have a pop himself, but he hesitates and tees up Dave Kitson instead... his shot is blocked and Cardiff survive.

1341: Cardiff's first sustained spell of pressure, with Boro struggling to clear their lines from a corner which they conceded when Michael Chopra had a shot blocked. The Bluebirds are passing the ball around well too.

1340: If you give this page a quick manual refresh, a link to BBC Radio 5 live's commentary from the Riverside will appear at the top right of your page. UK users only, I'm afraid.

1338: It's not as though Cardiff are just sitting back and soaking things up either. Chris Burke vaults a couple of challenges and lets fly from 25 yards but his low shot is straight at Boro keeper Brad Jones.

From Giles in Ghana, via text: "Yesterday, what a day, was sat in Ghana reading the updates then texting a friend in Mali who supports Man Utd. Fingers sore today, hopefully his internet will be back up today otherwise my phone bill will be excessive."

1334: Boro haven't won a home game since Gordon Strachan took charge on 26 October but they have made a decent start to this one - some neat passing from them coming forward, and Adam Johnson is seeing plenty of the ball on the right too. Cardiff holding out so far, though.

ArtDecoGecko on Twitter: "I can't explain why but I have a feeling Liverpool are going to turn it around, starting today... here's to a 3-1 win."

1330: Michael Chopra has his first effort on goal of the day, taking a pot-shot from the edge of the box after finding a bit of space... but he doesn't quite catch it right and it rolls wide of Brad Jones' right-hand post.

1325: Cardiff's ex-Newcastle and Sunderland striker Michael Chopra is getting some hearty boos from the Boro fans, whose side are still on top. Dave Marshall has not had another save to make but the Cardiff defenders have blocked about a dozen shots already. Could be a busy afternoon for them...

From AberdeenBluebird on 606: "Hopefully this will be a repeat of the FA Cup Quarter-final of 2008! I think we have a great chance to win today but we're quite inconsistent... Come on Cardiff!!"

1320: A lively start at the Riverside. Cardiff have shown their intention by getting forward quickly but Boro's Adam Johnson just had a fierce shot saved by David Marshall before Dave Kitson dragged the rebound wide.

triggersolution on Twitter: "Huge chance for Liverpool today. Bet they don't take it again! Hope Arsenal get themselves back in the title race."

1315: Right then. Middlesbrough get us started. Win today, and fifth-placed Cardiff go third - Boro are 11th at start of play but three points would send them sixth... yes, it's that tight in the Championship.

1313: Middlesbrough boss Gordon Strachan on his side's poor home form that has seen them win only one of their last seven games at the Riverside: "The crowd are actually very good and support the team very well. But there is something fundamentally wrong here and we need to find it out."

From Jesus Saves but Jinky taps in on the rebound on 606: "Middlesbrough and Cardiff are two teams that have on and off days. It could be high scoring, nil-nil or 4-0 to someone. I'm gonna say 2-0 boro with Bent getting one and Mark Yeates getting the other."

1309: TEAM NEWS Middlesbrough v Cardiff
Middlesbrough boss Gordon Strachan brings Mark Yeates back Marcus Bent into his starting XI but Gary O'Neil misses out after picking up a knock in midweek. Cardiff midfielder Joe Ledley starts after recovering from a hip injury and striker Jay Bothroyd returns from suspension.

1307: Hopefully you know how to get involved by now. If not, tweet me gently on Twitter, text me via 81111 (UK) or +44 7786200666 (international) and join the chat on 606.

1305: We've lost another manager today too. Sheffield Wednesday have parted company with Brian Laws "by mutual consent".... making him the 20th boss to go in the top four divisions this season. Probably not the early Christmas present Laws was hoping for.

1303: I want your thoughts on yesterday too... lots to talk about, whether it be Sir Alex Ferguson demanding that referees should not decide how much injury time is played (I should probably add that Sir Alex isn't suggesting that he should start doing that himself) as well as a diving debate involving Wayne Rooney and Craig Bellamy (one was correctly spotted, one was wrongly called), and an alleged player-fan clash at White Hart Lane. Got all that? Good.

1301: TEAMS Middlesbrough v Cardiff
Middlesbrough: Jones, McMahon, Wheater, St. Ledger, Pogatetz, Johnson, Rhys Williams, Osbourne, Yeates, Bent, Kitson. Subs: Coyne, Hoyte, Lita, Emnes, Arca, Hines, Luke Williams.
Cardiff: Marshall, Quinn, Hudson, Gerrard, McNaughton, Burke, Ledley, Rae, Whittingham, Chopra, Bothroyd. Subs: Enckelman, Kennedy, Etuhu, Taiwo, Matthews, Wildig, McCormack.
Referee: Grant Hegley (Hertfordshire)

1259: Kick-off at Anfield is at 1600 GMT... before that, we're heading up to the north-east for Middlesbrough v Cardiff, which starts in about 16 minutes' time. If you think the Premier League is unpredictable this season, then check out the Championship.

1257: Yep, Aston Villa were the only team to start the day in the top eight to win on Saturday - meaning Arsenal (two defeats in their last three league games) and Liverpool (one win in five league games) are still very much in touch with the leading pack despite their recent poor form. A win for either today would improve their title/top four prospects no end too. All to play for then...

1255 GMT: I'm pretty sure Rafa Benitez and Arsene Wenger enjoyed yesterday's Premier League thrills and spills as much as you and I... will either of them have anything to smile about today, though? I wonder...



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Premier League results

13 Dec 2009 23:59 UK


Premier League table

Sunday, 13 December 2009 17:59 UK

Position Team P GD PTS
Full Premier League table
1 Chelsea 16 27 37
2 Man Utd 16 20 34
3 Arsenal 15 21 31
4 Aston Villa 16 12 29
5 Tottenham 16 13 27
6 Man City 15 8 26
7 Liverpool 16 10 24
8 Birmingham 16 0 24
9 Fulham 16 3 23
10 Sunderland 16 0 21
11 Stoke 16 -4 21
12 Blackburn 16 -12 19
13 Burnley 16 -14 18
14 Wigan 16 -17 18
15 Everton 16 -8 17
16 Hull 17 -17 17
17 Wolves 16 -13 16
18 West Ham 16 -7 14
19 Bolton 15 -12 13
20 Portsmouth 16 -10 11

see also
Premier League photos
13 Dec 09 |  Football
Football on the BBC
11 Aug 10 |  Football


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