Arsenal back on top after draw with Reds

Arsenal regained first place in the Premier League on Sunday thanks to a Cesc Fabregas equaliser in an entertaining 1-1 draw with Liverpool at Anfield.

The Gunners trailed to Steven Gerrard’s seventh-minute free kick but the inspirational Fabregas stole in with 10 minutes remaining to give the visitors a deserved share of the points.

Arsenal have 26 points from 10 matches while champions Manchester United, 4-1 winners at home to Middlesbrough on Saturday, also have 26 from 11 but have scored fewer goals. Liverpool are sixth with 20 points from 10.

Earlier Tottenham Hotspur suffered a third defeat in a tumultuous week to stay in the relegation zone, this time losing 2-1 at home to Blackburn Rovers for whom Christopher Samba scored a stoppage time winner.

Bolton Wanderers edged off the bottom with a 1-1 home draw against Aston Villa in Gary Megson’s first match in charge while Derby County returned to the foot of the table after a 2-0 home defeat by Everton.

Major test

Liverpool and Arsenal, both undefeated in the league this season, served up a treat in the weekend’s outstanding fixture which was seen as a major test of Arsenal’s credentials.

The home side, looking to hit back from a damaging 2-1 Champions League defeat by Besiktas on Wednesday, made a stirring start with Gerrard forcing a fine early save from goalkeeper Manuel Almunia.

A minute later they went ahead when Gerrard’s fierce free kick from the edge of the area flew through a hole in the Arsenal wall into the bottom left corner.

Gerrard stung Almunia’s fingers with another shot soon after but Arsenal, seeking a 13th consecutive victory in all competitions, hogged possession for the rest of the half with their fluent passing game forcing Liverpool deep.

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez sent on Peter Crouch for the injured Fernando Torres after the break and the giant striker forced a great save from Almunia and then missed narrowly with another chance.

Glorious chance

Fabregas wasted a glorious chance to equalise after 53 minutes when Emmanuel Eboue’s low shot hit the base of the post and rebounded to him but he fired wide with the goal gaping.

He made amends with 10 minutes remaining, however, running on to Alexandr Hleb’s astute pass before toe-poking a shot past Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina.

Fabregas then hit the post with a curling effort and William Gallas went close as Arsenal went for the victory in a breathless finish.

“They proved they are ready for the challenge today and they never give up,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger told Sky Sports. “It was a big test today but we showed tremendous quality.”

Tottenham’s new manager Juande Ramos, who was confirmed as Martin Jol’s replacement on Saturday, was sitting in the White Hart Lane stands and saw at first hand the task he faces.

The London club, fifth the previous two seasons, have just seven points from 11 league matches this season after Blackburn struck late to move fifth.

Robbie Keane’s penalty after Aaron Lennon had been brought down in the box gave Spurs the lead but they are notoriously bad at protecting a lead and so it proved again.

Benni McCarthy equalised on the hour with a deflected shot and Samba stunned the home crowd with a powerful strike deep into added time.

Tottenham are just one point above Bolton and Derby.
- Reuters

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