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Sunday, 23 December, 2001, 18:29 GMT
Gunners seal vital victory
Referee Paul Durkin controversially shows Giovanni Van Bronckhorst a red card
Van Bronckhorst sees red from referee Durkin
Liverpool 1-2 Arsenal
E-mail your reaction to Football Talk

Arsenal turned the heat up under the Premiership title race with a gutsy win at Anfield after being reduced to 10 men.

But the man at the centre of attention was referee Paul Durkin who controversially dismissed Gunners' midfielder Giovanni Van Bronckhorst.

Despite being reduced to 10 men after 35 minutes, Arsene Wenger's team produced a gutsy performance to forge themselves a two-goal lead and then hold off a second-half surge by Liverpool.

Arsenal's win saw them leapfrog Liverpool into second place behind Newcastle, and keep the title race wide open.

But the win was inevitably overshadowed by some controversial refereeing from the Portland-based official.

  A day of drama
19 mins: Van Bronckhorst booked for foul on Hyppia.
23 mins: Owen shot cleared off line by Cole.
35 mins: Van Bronckhorst sent off.
45 mins: Henry penalty fires Arsenal 1-0 ahead, no action taken against Dudek.
53 mins: Ljungberg puts Arsenal 2-0 ahead.
55 mins Jari Litmanen pulls one back for Liverpool.

Van Bronckhorst was rightly yellow-carded by referee Durkin for an unseemly late challenge on Sami Hyppia in the 19th minute.

It left the Dutch midfielder walking a tightrope which Durkin controversially cut from underneath him on 35 minutes.

Van Bronckhorst went to ground as he raced for the ball alongside Hyppia, although there was no hint he was seeking a free-kick as he sprang instantly to his feet.

Referee Durkin saw it otherwise, though, and immediately showed an incredulous Van Bronckhorst a second yellow card.


I was following the ball into the area and I felt Van Bronckhorst was trying to decieve me and gain a penalty
Referee Paul Durkin

The expressions on the Arsenal bench ranged from disbelief to grim resignation as Van Bronckhorst trudged dolefully down the tunnel.

Durkin courted more controversy in first-half injury time.

There was little question of his decision to award Arsenal a penalty as Liverpool keeper Jerzy Dudek hauled down Freddie Ljungberg as the Swede attempted to round him.

But Durkin opted to take no further action against the Polish keeper, even though he was the last man.

Freddie Ljungberg is brought down by Jerzy Dudek for Arsenal's penalty
Freddie Ljungberg is brought down by Liverpool keeper Dudek

Amid all the furore, Thierry Henry kept a cool head to slot the perfect penalty into the bottom right-hand corner to beat Dudek's dive and score Arsenal's first goal at Anfield for six years.

There was controversy before that as Michael Owen was denied what he thought was his 100th goal for Liverpool.

Danny Murphy's pass played Owen in behind Lauren and as the England striker slipped the ball past the advancing Taylor, Ashley Cole was sweeping behind.

Cole's initial block, though, only succeeded in taking the ball towards the unguarded goal.

But he somehow managed to hook his right foot behind the ball to hook it out before it had wholly crossed the line.

It left Owen disappointed as he wheeled away in premature celebration of his century of Liverpool goals.


I felt the challenge Dudek made was reckless. Not every challenge that's unfair is a yellow or red card
Referee Paul Durkin

There was nothing controversial about Arsenal's second goal on 52 minutes.

Pires galloped down the left and delivered a wicked ball into the near post where Ljungberg zipped in to side-foot the ball past Dudek.

Within three minutes Liverpool pulled a goal back.

Owen's sliced shot looped upwards and turned into a perfect cross for half-time substitute Jari Litmanen to head home at the far post.

Liverpool hunted frantically for an equaliser, and Patrik Berger twice came close.

First he found himself through on goal but failed to hit the target.

Then the Czech international turned sharply on the edge of the Arsenal penalty area and grazed the outside of Taylor's left-hand post with a powerful left-foot shot.

Owen was presented with a chance five minutes from time but he failed to make contact with the ball six yards out with Arsenal defenders apealing in vain for offside.

Liverpool's fate seemed inexorably drawn to Berger and a minute from time he looped a header over Taylor only to see it land on the roof of the net.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Sport's John Murray
"Arsenal's first win at Anfield for nine years"
Arsenal's Freddie Ljungberg
"We're glad we held on"
Liverpool assistant manager Phil Thompson
"A lot of our passing could have been much better"
Links to more Eng Prem stories are at the foot of the page.

 

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