| Emile Heskey after scoring a stoppage-time goal which earned Liverpool a 2-2 draw with Arsenal at Anfield Wednesday. (Reuters)
London: Emile Heskey headed a dramatic stoppage-time equaliser as Liverpool held champions Arsenal 2-2 at Anfield in the Premier League on Wednesday.
Arsenal dominated the match and twice led through goals by Robert Pires and Dennis Bergkamp but Heskey’s fine header at the death, following a controversially-awarded corner, cost Arsene Wenger’s side a valuable two points.
The draw meant Arsenal remained five points clear at the top with 53 points from 25 games. Newcastle United moved into second place on 48 points after Jermaine Jenas’ last-minute winner gave them a 1-0 win at Tottenham Hotspur.
Manchester United are third on 47 points, but with a game in hand, followed by Chelsea on 44. Liverpool are sixth on 39.
At the other end, West Ham United eased the pressure on manager Glenn Roeder when Jermain Defoe’s late goal gave them a precious 2-1 victory over Blackburn Rovers. It was West Ham’s first home league win in 13 attempts this season.
West Bromwich Albion slipped to the bottom of the table after losing 0-1 at home to Charlton Athletic, while Manchester City registered a 4-1 home win over Fulham.
Arsenal, and their elusive French striker Thierry Henry in particular, were awesome in the first half at Anfield. They went in front after only eight minutes when Pires stroked the ball into an empty net after Liverpool goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek had saved an Henry shot following a superb Bergkamp through ball.
The home side needed a strong start to the second period and got it as Norwegian John-Arne Riise drilled in a 20-metre equaliser after 52 minutes.
Arsenal were rattled but then showed the resilience of true champions. Bergkamp cut in from the left and drove in a shot that deflected cruelly off Liverpool defender Stephane Henchoz and past a despairing Dudek into the back of the net.
The champions could have added to their tally after that and were made to pay in time added on.
Liverpool’s Milan Baros and Arsenal’s Oleg Luzhny challenged for the ball, the linesman awarded a corner and, when Salif Diao eventually crossed the ball into the area, Heskey beat goalkeeper David Seaman with an imperious header.
Jenas decided a tight game at White Hart Lane with a belated intervention for Newcastle, who are now right in the title frame. The 19-year-old’s fourth goal in five games, a scuffed effort in the final minute after Craig Bellamy;s shot was saved, handed Spurs their first home defeat since September.
West Ham, with Les Ferdinand and the inspirational Paolo Di Canio back in their attack, started brightly against Blackburn following their 0-6 FA Cup thrashing at Manchester United. But they could not force a breakthrough and seven minutes before the interval Dwight Yorke punished them, lashing the ball home at the second attempt from David Thompson’s free kick.
Di Canio earned and scored the penalty from which West Ham equalised after 58 minutes. But it was left to substitute Defoe, with an expert finish a minute from time, to provide Roeder with some home comfort at last.
West Ham jumped two places to third-from-bottom on 20 points, one less than the team above them, Bolton Wanderers, and three above bottom club West Brom.
Albion, with 17 points, were undone by South African striker Shaun Bartlett’s goal on the hour mark for Charlton at The Hawthorns.
Frenchman Steed Malbranque, scorer of a hattrick in the FA Cup Sunday, needed only two minutes to open the scoring for Fulham at Manchester City. But after that Kevin Keegan’s side took over.
French striker Nicolas Anelka equalised and second-half goals by Ali Benarbia, Marc-Vivien Foe and Shaun Wright-Phillips completed a fine turnaround. (Reuters)