Martin Skrtel saves the day for Liverpool with equaliser in 7th minute of injury time
(Coutinho 45, Skrtel 90+7)
(Debuchy 45+2, Giroud 64)
He rose like a mummy and turned from villain to hero with one gravity-defying leap.
Bloodied and bruised, the bandaged Martin Skrtel rose highest in the penalty box to earn 10-man Liverpool an unlikely 2-2 draw against Arsenal last night.
The defender had been at fault for both of the Gunners' goals. But he made amends in the 97th minute -- a long injury time caused by his own head wound.
Somehow, Liverpool had pinched a point they scarcely deserved.
They dominated possession against Arsenal, just as they had at Old Trafford last week.
They created the better chances, just as they had at Old Trafford last week.
This time, at least, Brendan Rodgers' unwise men pinched a point.
They certainly came bearing gifts at Christmas. But they gave them to Arsenal, twice.
Tis the season to be jolly, but there's little else to smile about at Anfield. At some point, alarm bells will drown out the jingle bells if they can keep throwing away commanding positions against average sides.
Pundit Gary Neville compared the static Gunners to mannequins. But even mannequins move occasionally in a stiff breeze.
Arsenal were inert, timid in the tackle and terrified to really try anything.
Their last visit to Anfield ended in that dignity-stripping 1-5 defeat in February and the psychological hangover clearly remained.
Sleepwalkers offer more creativity.
Arsene Wenger vowed to plug the holes that the Reds drilled through in February, but Mathieu Flamini was a weak gamekeeper. He frequently went AWOL when the lively Adam Lallana and Lazar Markovic came poaching.
Only Liverpool's powder-puff attack stopped the home side from putting the game to bed by half-time.
For a brief period, the Reds enjoyed almost 90 per cent possession, an astonishing statistic. During the same period, the Reds failed to muster a worthwhile shot on goal, an even more astonishing statistic.
At least David de Gea was forced to perform Man-of-the-Match heroics to deny Liverpool last weekend.
Wojciech Szczesny endured a more strenuous workout in his pre-match warm-up. Unfortunately for Arsenal, their keeper's inaction was contagious.
Alexis Sanchez was isolated and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain simply anonymous, while Danny Welbeck and Olivier Giroud's most significant early contribution was to clumsily combine to concede the opening goal.
Both forwards failed to clear their lines in the 45th minute, allowing Jordan Henderson to sweep inside from the right and slip in Philippe Coutinho.
The Brazilian dropped a shoulder like a limbo dancer, lost his man and found the bottom corner from the edge of the area.
Liverpool's self-destructive season was neatly summarised by the farce that followed. After their best move came their worst.
Steven Gerrard conceded a soft free-kick just a minute later and an aimless Arsenal cross ping-ponged around the penalty box, with Liverpool playing head tennis until Mathieu Debuchy intervened to outjump Skrtel from six metres.
The Gunners' immediate comeback was admirable. Skrtel's defending was awful.
Rodgers left the field with the confused frustration of a constipated soul in urgent need of a toilet.
Early in the second half, Skrtel paid a painful price for his error when Giroud accidentally stood on his head. The blood gushed down the defender's neck, but he returned bandaged up after a seven-minute stoppage.
Giroud's next touch was even more painful for the Anfield faithful.
A neat one-two with Santi Cazorla led to the Spaniard cutting back for the Frenchman to side-foot home from close range in the 65th minute.
The defender who lost Giroud was a patched-up Skrtel. Professional sport shows no mercy.
As Manchester United discovered last week, defending against Liverpool is relatively easy. Scoring against them is even easier.
Arsenal had scored with their first coherent move.
Fabio Borini then managed to come on as a late second-half sub and lose his head with two quick yellow cards to seemingly kill off any chance of a home comeback.
Until Skrtel saved Liverpool's Christmas.