The Telegraph
Friday , February 14 , 2014
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Misfiring United’s struggle continues

- Visitors play out goalless draw vs Arsenal; Reds win

London: Title challenger Arsenal and struggling champions Manchester United ground out a goalless draw at the Emirates Stadium, on Wednesday, that caused further damage to the visitors’ ambitions in a lacklustre season.

Robin van Persie had United’s best chances on his return to Arsenal, squandering an early effort and then seeing a late header brilliantly tipped against the bar by goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.

Olivier Giroud was ineffective up front for an energy-sapped Arsenal side, wasting a couple of headers and lacking his finishing touch.

In another tie, Liverpool’s surge towards a first league title since 1990 continued when they beat Fulham 3-2 with a last-minute penalty.

The most open Premier League championship race for years continued on a wild and windy night across Britain, leaving Chelsea top, just seven points ahead of fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur who chalked up a superb 4-0 win at Newcastle United.

The storms caused Manchester City’s game against Sunderland at the Etihad Stadium and Everton’s match at Goodison Park against Crystal Palace to be postponed because of dangerously high winds.

Chelsea lead the way with 57 points, one in front of Arsenal with 12 matches to play. City are third on 54 with a game in hand on the top two, followed by Liverpool on 53 and Spurs on 50.

Everton, who also have a game in hand, are sixth on 45 points, three clear of United who have won just two of their last seven league matches.

The last time United played at the Emirates in April, they were welcomed onto the pitch with a guard of honour by Arsenal as they had won the title with weeks to spare.

This season, though, the Red Devils are struggling to even book a Champions League berth. And even with Van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata deployed by Moyes, the visitors struggled to produce menacing moments to unsettle Arsenal.

The match was characterised by a lack of finesse across the pitch. On a chilly night in London, the players seemed to freeze when the goal came in sight.

Few players could have been more motivated than Van Persie in his second season at United since leaving Arsenal. The Netherlands striker carved out a chance to score inside three minutes, dispossessing goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, but produced a poor finish when he was through on goal.

The most dramatic game of the night was played at Craven Cottage where bottom-of-the-table Fulham twice led against Liverpool.

It was Fulham who took the lead when defender Kolo Toure, guilty of a terrible error that cost Liverpool victory at West Brom earlier this month, sliced the ball into his own net after eight minutes. (Agencies)