Weekend of draws for Premier League soccer

Manchester City twice came from behind in their draw away to Liverpool that denied Brendan Rodgers his first Premier League win as Reds manager.

Martin Skrtel went from hero to villain in the course of an exciting match at Anfield on Sunday, heading Liverpool in front before his loose back-pass set up the goal for Carlos Tevez that saw City make it 2-2, 10 minutes from time.

A much-improved Liverpool, shock 3-0 losers to West Bromwich Albion last week, took the lead when Skrtel powered in a header from Steven Gerrard's 34th minute corner.

But City, who came through a see-saw clash to beat newcomers Southampton 3-2 in their league opener, were level in the 63rd minute when Yaya Toure capitalised on the failure of Liverpool's Martin Kelly to clear a Tevez cross.

But parity lasted for just three minutes until, following a Jack Rodwell handball, Liverpool striker Luis Suarez curled the ensuing 20-yard free-kick round the wall and beyond the despairing dive of City and England goalkeeper Joe Hart.

But Argentina striker Tevez, with his 100th goal in English football, drew City level again in the 80th minute when he seized on a stray back-pass from defender Skrtel and then calmly rounded Pepe Reina before slotting home.

Nevertheless, Rodgers told Sky Sports: "My glass is very nearly full.

"I thought it was a brilliant performance. We were asked a lot of questions and I thought the players were incredible. Some times the best team doesn't win … Let's remember we were playing a good side."

'We will only get better'
And Rodgers, renowned when in charge of Swansea for his emphasis on passing football, absolved Skrtel of blame for City's second goal.

"He was brave enough to play it and that's the development of the team. As a group we will only get better," Rodgers said.

This was the fourth game in a row where City had conceded two goals and manager Roberto Mancini said: "This is the time to finish conceding two goals every game.

"But we have taken one point when we went down two times," the Italian added.

Earlier, Arsenal failed to score for the second league match in a row following the departure of star striker Robin van Persie to Manchester United as they were held to a goalless draw away to Stoke.

"It is not good enough," said Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta after the Gunners' second straight 0-0 stalemate. "We had some really good chances but at the moment we are not taking them. The same thing happened last week."

'Pleased'
Arsenal's manager Arsene Wenger was pleased by his side's defensive performance but said he was looking to bring in more players to the London club before Friday's transfer deadline.

"I'm pleased with what I have, but yes, I anticipate that we will do something still," Wenger said. "We are still in the market. Defensive midfielder, it depends on the quality of the players available."

The Gunners have won just once in five matches at the Britannia and struggled to break down a determined Stoke defence, who had chances to claim their own first win of the league season.

Stoke started the brighter side and, buoyed by a vociferous home crowd, had a goal ruled out early on for offside.

Jonathan Walters found the net from a Peter Crouch knockdown but referee Lee Mason halted the celebrations.

Arsenal had numerous chances to break the deadlock before half time as they adjusted to life without Van Persie, in their first away game since the Dutch striker moved to Manchester United.

A Lukas Podolski shot was blocked by Andy Wilkinson with replays suggesting an arm may have been used by the Stoke defender.

Midfield possession
As was the case against Sunderland on the opening day of the season, new Arsenal midfielder Santi Cazorla, a summer signing from Malaga, enjoyed plenty of possession in midfield.

It was Cazorla who fired wide after his initial free-kick had hit the Stoke wall as Arsenal searched for the breakthrough.

Cazorla forced Asmir Begovic into a save before Podolski blazed over the crossbar.

It was not all one-way traffic though, and Stoke offered a renewed attacking threat of their own.

A tame shot from the right from Wilkinson was comfortably gathered by Arsenal keeper Vito Mannone, in the side because Wojciech Szczesny failed a fitness test on a rib injury.

Mannone then saved well from a fiercely struck shot by Michael Kightly, Stoke's summer signing from Wolves.

The visitors could have had the lead before the break when Mason played advantage after Mikel Arteta had been felled in midfield, and Cazorla's bending effort forced a save at full stretch from Begovic.

Slower second half
The second half started slowly before Jermaine Pennant, the former Arsenal midfielder, had claims for a penalty waved away by Mason after a coming together with Kieran Gibbs.

Stoke manager Tony Pulis brought on forward Cameron Jerome for Pennant, meaning the hosts had three strikers on the pitch.

Peter Crouch could not reach a Wilkinson cross while home debutant Geoff Cameron, the American international, was taking over from Rory Delap as the Potters' long throw specialist.

At the other end, Cazorla's effort was deflected wide, and from the resulting corner from the Spaniard, Olivier Giroud's acrobatic effort missed the target.

Wenger sent on England wingers Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott as he desperately looked to break the deadlock.

But the goal showed no signs of coming with Arteta slicing a shot wide before Abou Diaby lost his footing in the penalty area.

Pulis opted to go on the defensive as he replaced Crouch with Ryan Shotton but Stoke then had penalty claims for a handball by Arsenal full-back Carl Jenkinson.

Arsenal came closer to that elusive goal as Oxlade-Chamberlain headed over Arteta's corner and at the other end Kightly played in Walters whose weak effort was comfortably gathered by Mannone.

Then, a minute from time, Giroud's spectacular 35-yard effort came desperately close to beating Begovic before both teams were forced to settle for a draw. – AFP

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Julian Guyer
Guest Author
Ian Baker
Ian Baker works from High Wycombe, England. Freelance sports journalist. Formerly @WWASport. Cover football & other sports for national newspapers & websites. All views my own, etc. Ian Baker has over 3260 followers on Twitter.

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