Arsenal were denied a much needed win after their horror show against Chelsea when a late own goal from Mathieu Flamini secured Swansea City a point at the Emirates.
Arsenal still looked shaken from their 6-0 drubbing at Stamford Bridge for much of the encounter and went behind early to a Wilfried Bony header. The game suddenly changed in the space of two minutes late on when first Lukas Podolski struck before he set up Olivier Giroud to put the home side in front. But an unfortunate game of pinball in the box in the final minute saw the ball cannon off the unfortunate Flamini and trickle into the net. There was then controversy in the dying seconds when referee Lee Probert blew the final whistle with Swansea breaking on goal.
If it wasn’t already the case, the two dropped points now surely end any hopes Arsenal still had of claiming the Premier League title. Instead, Arsene Wenger will now be looking over his shoulder with Everton just six points back and having a game in hand. The two sides meet in less than two weeks in a match that could have massive ramifications for the destination of the final Champions League place.
It was Arsenal who had the first effort of Tuesday’s encounter when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who escaped a suspension for his infamous handball against Chelsea, struck a well-struck volley that Michel Vorm could only block behind the Swansea goal. But with just 11 minutes on the clock, the visitors struck to inflict more pain on the Emirates support.
Neil Taylor was allowed far too much space coming forward from left-back and swung an inviting ball into the box that allowed Bony to rise above Thomas Vermaelen and produce a superb header with power and accuracy to beat Wojciech Szczesny at his near post.
The goal initially failed to illicit the required response from Arsenal. Indeed all they could muster in terms of pushing for an equalizer before the break was Per Mertesacker heading a corner into the side netting and Santi Cazorla having a shot parried from 15 yards. The return of boos to the Emirates at half-time will not have sat well with Wenger, who had tried to ascribe the Chelsea defeat to a mere “accident,” from which they could quickly recover.
It took until the 73rd minute for Arsenal to show signs of recovery, with Podolski’s introduction the spark. Swansea right-back Angel Rangel had a nightmare spell, first as Kieran Gibbs ran around him before chipping a ball back for Podolski to adjust his body well and volley in from six yards. Just over a minute later Rangel conceded possession on halfway, allowing Podolski to burst clear down the left and put in a fine low cross that invited Giroud to convert in the middle.
But there was to be a final agonizing twist from an Arsenal point of view. Flamini allowed Leon Britton to burst past him after a clever one-two with Rangel and the midfielder was punished in the cruelest way. Mertesacker’s fine challenge on Britton saw the ball come back off Szczesny, onto the fast-recovering Flamini and into the net.
If there’s any consolation for Arsenal after another demoralizing result, it’s that things could have been even worse. With Jonathan de Guzman through on goal, the final whistle blew to the immense frustration of the visitors.