Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Jeffers Row Fails to Trip Up Arsenal Bid

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Jeffers Row Fails to Trip Up Arsenal Bid

Article excerpt

Byline: MICHAEL HART

ARSENE WENGER and Gerard Houllier may be pals, but they could not have had more different opinions of the controversial penalty that earned Arsenal a point against title rivals Liverpool.

With 11 minutes left, Arsenal substitute Francis Jeffers wriggled through a black forest of defenders before plunging at the feet of John Arne Riise.

Claims that Riise had pulled Jeffers's shirt were shown to be false and Liverpool manager Houllier was rightly angry.

He said: "Arsenal were lucky to get their penalty. It was a great dive by Jeffers - he is a great comedian.

"What I can't accept is that Riise was shown the yellow card. I hope the referee rescinds it when he sees the TV evidence. The caution should have gone to the player who dived.

"I have a lot of sympathy for referees. They have a difficult job, but I feel frustrated and disappointed because it was clearly not a penalty."

Wenger claimed that Jeffers was caught on his left leg and had "no choice other than to go down."

In pure footballing terms, Arsenal were head and shoulders above a Liverpool side whose sombre black and grey strip seemed to reflect the dour nature of their ambition.

"They came for the draw and they got what they wanted," said Wenger.

With just three points from the last eight games, Liverpool really needed to rediscover winning ways. I think any realistic hope they had of usurping Arsenal as Premiership champions ended at Highbury yesterday.

Liverpool are now nine points behind the leaders while Chelsea, proudly sharing second place with Manchester United, are just five points behind.

But, having dropped seven points in their last four games, Chelsea too need to win at Highbury on New Year's Day to maintain their title hopes.

If he was looking for clues, Chelsea coach Claudio Ranieri will have found what he wanted.

Liverpool demonstrated to him the value of a suffocating midfield strategy.

It wasn't pretty to watch, but on a wet, blustery afternoon Arsenal's superior technique failed to break down Liverpool's defiant game plan.

Ranieri might also mention to his players the dangers of heavyhanding Jeffers, whose sudden collapse provided Thierry Henry with Arsenal's face-saving penalty equaliser 11 minutes from time. …

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