Home » EPL, Latest » Match Report: Arsenal 3 Norwich 3

Robin van Persie capped a remarkable week by equalling one of Thierry Henry’s records with two late goals – but they were not enough give Arsenal a victory they desired but did not deserve against Norwich City.

On Thursday the Dutch striker added the Footballer of the Year title to his PFA award, and at lunchtime he scored the two goals that took him level with Henry’s record of 30 goals in a Premier League season.

He could and should have had a hat-trick, but a combination of missed chances, outstanding defendeing and refereeing leniency allowed Norwich to finish with a hard-earned but well-deserved draw.

A point is not ideal for Arsenal, however, leaving Arsene Wenger’s men just two points ahead of Tottenham and Newcastle, who will play their game in hand today. If they both win, Arsenal could be in fifth place by tea-time, with their place in the Champions League in danger.

But it all started so well at the Emirates. After Van Persie received his awards on the pitch, Arsenal got off to an ideal start when Yossi Benayoun put them ahead in the second minute. The Israeli midfielder, celebrating his 32nd birthday, hit a looping, curling shot from outside the penalty area past a stranded John Ruddy to get the home supporters singing.

But it started to go horribly wrong for Arsenal as they surrendered the initiative and allowed Norwich to get back into the game. Wes Houlihan equalised in the 13th minute with a simple shot that Wojciech Szczesny allowed to squirm through his hands.

Even worse was to come for Arsenal as a quick break out of defence by Norwich led to the Gunners’ defence being outnumbered, and Grant Holt’s shot hit the boot of Kieran Gibbs before looping over Szczesny and into the net in the 26th minute.

Arsenal were stunned by they had only themselves to blame. Norwich looked hungrier and sharper, and they rather than their hosts looked like they were pushing for a Champions League spot. It could have been worse, as Norwich had two good penalty appeals turned down and Benayoun escaped without punishment after kicking out at Simon Lappin. They also lost Bacary Sagna, taken off on a stretcher with a calf injury.

Arsenal left the field to jeers at half-time, but started the second half much brighter, with Van Persie and Laurent Koscielny bringing the best out of Ruddy, who proceeded to make a string of exceptional saves.

But the keeper could not stop Van Persie equalising in the 73rd minute with an exquisite sidefooted volley from Alex Song’s chip forward. Within seven minutes Van Persie had made it 3-2, reacting quickly to shoot past Ruddy when a deflection fell his way in front of goal. But Norwich hit back five minutes later, substitute Steve Morison shooting into the far corner of Szczesny’s goal.

Even then Arsenal had chances, with Ruddy saving at Van Persie’s feet with the Dutchman clean though on goal, and Koscielny putting his header straight at the goalkeeper. Van Persie thought he should have had a penalty in the dying minutes when Kyle Naughton bundled him into the net as a cross came in, but defeat would have been harsh on Norwich.

Now Arsenal need Spurs or Newcastle to drop points if they are to finish in the top four – and know their destiny is out of their hands.

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