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banner Tuesday, 19 February, 2002, 21:38 GMT
Late goal thwarts Arsenal
Ulf Kirsten (left) celebrates his equaliser for Bayer Leverkusen against Arsenal
Ulf Kirsten (left) celebrates, leaving Arsenal dejected
Bayer Leverkusen 1-1 Arsenal

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Arsenal ended their miserable away run in Europe in Germany but were minutes from claiming all three points.

A late equaliser from Bayer's Ulf Kirsten cancelled out Robert Pires' earlier strike.

It was hard luck on the Gunners, who had defended bravely after the harsh dismissal of Ray Parlour halfway through the second half.

  Match facts
56 mins: Robert Pires puts Arsenal ahead
68 mins: Ray Parlour is controversially sent off
90 mins: Ulf Kirsten grabs a dramatic equaliser
Arsenal had come into the match against Bayer on the back of six consecutive defeats in Europe and without a goal on the continent for over a year.

Pires' 56th-minute strike looked to be enough to claim three crucial away points for Arsene Wenger's men in a scrappy stop-start match played in slippery conditions.

But Parlour's dismissal in the 68th minute changed the momentum of the game.

Cautious start

Arsenal overcame a nervous opening to look the superior team at half-time.

Their makeshift defence - without Tony Adams, Martin Keown, Ashley Cole, Matthew Upson and Lee Dixon -had looked shaky early on but was helped by the steadying presence of the returning David Seaman.

Not that their opponents looked much smarter at the back with the pace of Pires, Thierry Henry and Sylvain Wiltord making the Bayer back four look sluggish.

The German defence was further weakened by an early injury to the influential Jens Nowotny, who finally limped off after the break.

Kanu had the best opportunity early on but tried to be over-elaborate and his placed shot was kept out by Bayer keeper Hans-Jorg Butt.

At the other end, Yildiray Basturk pulled the ball smartly back across the goal but Ulf Kirsten's weak shot allowed Sol Campbell to scramble the ball to safety with Seaman beaten.

Ulf Kirsten of Bayer Leverkusen holds off Arsenal's Sol Campbell
Ulf Kirsten holds off Sol Campbell

The rain dried up in the second half which meant the game should have begun to flow.

But a succession of niggely fouls meant a busy night for referee Alain Sar's whistle.

Then Pires, finding himself in space in Bayer's half, slipped a pass through to Wiltord on the right wing who crossed back across the goal for Pires to slide the ball home.

Shortly afterwards, Parlour, who was already on a yellow card, was harshly dismissed for what seemed a non-existent challenge on Basturk.

Wenger sent on Gilles Grimandi and Edu to shore up the defence as Arsenal grimly held on.

But as the rain began again, so Arsenal's grip on the match began to slip.

Dimitier Berbatov hit the bar with a dipping shot and Bayer had strong claims for a penalty when Ivor Stepanovs appeared to clear the ball with his hand.

But then Kirsten met a deep cross at the far post to end the Gunners' resistance and leave Group D as finely poised as ever.

Bayer Leverkusen: Butt, Placente (Berbatov 74), Lucio, Nowotny (Vranjes 62), Zivkovic, Ze Roberto, Basturk, Ballack, Schneider, Neuville, Kirsten.
Subs Not Used: Juric, Babic, Hejduk, Brdaric, Kleine.

Booked: Zivkovic.

Goals: Kirsten 90. Arsenal: Seaman, van Bronckhorst, Stepanovs, Campbell, Lauren, Pires, Vieira, Parlour, Wiltord (Grimandi 71), Kanu (Edu 76), Henry.
Subs Not Used: Wright, Jeffers, Bergkamp, Inamoto, Tavlaridis.

Sent Off: Parlour (68).

Booked: Stepanovs, Parlour.

Att: 22,200

Referee: Alain Sars (Lorraine).

BBC Sport's Alan Green
"A better away performance from Arsenal"
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger
"I'm quite happy with the performance"
Arsenal's Thierry Henry
"To be fair 1-1 was a fair result"
Arsenal defender Lauren
"I didn't think the sending-off was crucial"
See also:

19 Feb 02 |  Uefa Cup
Tuesday's Uefa Cup action
19 Feb 02 |  Man Utd
Ferguson denies Papin link
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