Arsenal’s wings were clipped in a 2-2 draw at Southampton as they missed a chance to soar four points clear in the Premier League title race while Liverpool thrashed Everton and Manchester United beat Cardiff on Tuesday.
With Manchester City and Chelsea playing on Wednesday, Arsenal could have stolen a march on their rivals but, like their team bus that was late arriving after getting stuck in traffic, they struggled to move out of second gear.
Arsene Wenger’s side started slowly and were caught out by Jose Fonte’s early goal and Adam Lallana’s second-half equaliser either side of strikes from Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla.
There was no sluggishness about Liverpool, whose 15-year home hoodoo over rivals Everton continued with Daniel Sturridge scoring twice in a 4-0 win, while Dutchman Robin van Persie came back with a bang as Manchester United eased past Cardiff 2-0.
Arsenal, who had Mathieu Flamini sent off 10 minutes from time, are two points ahead of Manchester City and three above Chelsea but could drop to third if their rivals win on Wednesday at Tottenham Hotspur and home to West Ham United respectively.
“They have difficult games as well and we took at least a point,” said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. “It’s not enough but, considering the situation at halftime (when Arsenal were losing 1-0), we have to be content with it.”
Fourth-placed Liverpool revived their own faint title hopes and now sit six points behind Arsenal, while United stay seventh a further six points adrift.
It is not often Arsenal find themselves chasing possession, but Southampton gave the leaders the run-around in the first half and deservedly took the lead after 21 minutes.
Luke Shaw curled in a delightful cross from the left wing to pick out Fonte at the far post and he headed home.
Wenger’s halftime team talk rallied his side and they were swiftly level after the restart with Giroud backheeling past Artur Boruc after turning on a Bacary Sagna cross before Cazorla buried a low shot to put them ahead four minutes later.
But they could not close the game out and Lallana turned in a Jay Rodriguez cross to level before French midfielder Flamini was given his marching orders for a rash challenge.
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard powered in a 21st minute header to open the scoring at Anfield but it was Sturridge who took the game away from their Merseyside rivals, showcasing his finishing talents before Luis Suarez completed the rout.
Sturridge struck twice in two minutes past the half-hour just as Everton seemed to be gaining a foothold in the match, yet both his goals would continued…