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Arsenal 2 Hull 2

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IT is unusual for both managers to step away from the dugout and express a similar level of rueful disappointment. That was the case here as Steve Bruce lamented how Hull were unable to cling on to what would have been a satisfying victory, followed by Arsène Wenger airing his deep frustration.

Wenger was distinctly unimpressed with his team’s habit of enjoying possession but conceding self-inflicted goals due to defensive lapses. Of course, some of the accountability for that should stare the Frenchman in the face if he looks in the mirror. Defensive shortcomings are perhaps not surprising in a squad built without enough experienced defenders.

Hull were able to capitalise. They were enterprising, solid and Bruce’s instincts told him they were comfortable enough to see out a 2-1 lead as a fractious game ticked into stoppage time. For Arsenal, the consolation of a draw salvaged by a late combination between Alexis Sánchez and Danny Welbeck certainly reduces the heat that was beginning to boil up inside the Emirates. But considering Arsenal have won a mere two games out of eight in the Premier League this season, for all the relief of the equaliser, the general mood as the crowd drifted off was of discontent.

It was an odd, jerking see-saw of a contest. Hull began in such casual mood Arsenal could have been in charge early on as they created a string of chances. Steve Harper, the veteran goalkeeper, excelled to beat down a drive from Welbeck and then tip over Santi Cazorla’s pearl of a curling shot. The initial sluggishness from the visitors was punished in virtuoso style by Sánchez in the 13th minute. A salsa run down the right propelled him into the box, and he struck early – low and lethal – to give Arsenal the lead.

Not for long. Mohamed Diamé’s powerful weaving run carved through the heart of Wenger’s makeshift defence. Nacho Monreal, the emergency centre-half in Laurent Koscielny’s absence, showed scant resistance. Mathieu Flamini was too easily pulled away, and Diamé’s dinked finish was cooly executed.

Arsenal protested furiously to the referee, Roger East, claiming a foul on Flamini. Bruce acknowledged that Hull had been fortunate, describing the moment of controversy as an “individual piece of grappling” with a glint in his eye. “Maybe we have got a decision. You don’t get many of them at the Emirates. It was a good one to get.”

It got much worse for Arsenal as they started the second half as if in a distant reverie. Straight from kick-off Hull passed the ball neatly and found Tom Huddlestone on the right flank. There were plenty of home defenders in the box as he crossed, but Abel Hernández’s movement was so switched on, so alert, he ruthlessly exposed Per Mertesacker to head Hull in front as numerous supporters were ambling back from their half time refreshment. Bruce was thrilled at what he called “a goal to grace any arena”.

The Uruguayan had been promoted from the bench when Nikica Jelavic twisted his knee in the warm-up. That was one of three injuries Hull suffered. Harper tore a muscle in his biceps and Michael Dawson’s ankle, according to Bruce, was “the size of a basketball”.

Arsenal strained to get a foothold back in the game. Their play was intricate, and Hull’s defensive and midfield blocks presented a formidable barrier. The trio of Jake Livermore, Huddlestone and Diamé showed great resolve.

The Emirates air was thick with frustration. Wenger looked stressed on the touchline. The atmosphere was tempestuous. Arsenal came close when Sánchez ghosted in to glance in a fine header – matched by a superb tip-over from the replacement goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic. Finally, the Chilean made the difference with a spurt of inspiration and a clever assist for Welbeck, who finished smartly with his left foot.

“It’s the fourth time we have conceded in the last minute,” said Bruce, before suggesting that if a draw at the Emirates is frustrating that has to be a sign of the club’s progress.

Arsenal, though, have questions about theirs as they lie 11 points behind Chelsea. Wenger was annoyed. “It’s a big concern. The other teams win and we don’t. We had 80% possession and only one point. We were unlucky with the ref on the first goal, on the second we only blame ourselves. Defensive concentration was missing and you cannot give goals away like that.” Full of regret, both teams went home. – The Guardian

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