• Premier League round-up

Arsenal and Reading mastermind quickfire comebacks

ESPN staff
January 30, 2013
Theo Walcott got Arsenal's equaliser © Getty Images

Draws for Arsenal - against Liverpool - and Tottenham saw Everton gain ground in the race for fourth in the Premier League on Wednesday, as Chelsea threw away a 2-0 lead to draw with Reading.

Elsewhere, Manchester United opened up a seven-point advantage at the top of the table with a somewhat uncertain home win over Southampton, while Fulham held on to beat West Ham United in the London derby at Craven Cottage.

Premier League table & results

Two goals in as many minutes saw Arsenal come from 2-0 down to claim a 2-2 draw against Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium.

Goals from Luis Suarez and Jordan Henderson had given the Merseysiders a healthy advantage heading into the final 30 minutes of the game, but Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott both beat Pepe Reina with emphatic finishes to set up a pulsating final 20 minutes - although neither side was ultimately able to get a winner.

If both Liverpool's goals came in somewhat comical circumstances, then the opener was certainly a fifth-minute disaster of Arsenal's own making. Bacary Sagna's initial slip created the danger, before Thomas Vermaelen compounded it by failing to clear a cross into the box. Daniel Sturridge's subsequent shot was saved by Wojciech Szczesny but the ball rebounded out to Henderson, who calmly backheeled to Suarez.

The Uruguayan took a touch and fired his shot at goal - but in truth it was a deflection that eventually took it past the stranded Szczesny.

With an hour gone, it was 2-0. This time it was Henderson who profited from some good fortune to find the net - the midfielder bursting between defenders to create an opening, before being tackled by Aaron Ramsey as Szczesny sprang from his line. But Arsenal fans could only watch in horror as the ball deflected off Andre Santos right back into Henderson's path - with the ex-Sunderland man suddenly perfect position to pass into the open net.

That misfortune seemed to - belatedly - spark the home side into life - and in a two-minute spell they were back on level terms. Giroud initiated the fightback having earlier been guilty of some poor misses - the Frenchman powering home Jack Wilshere's well-placed free-kick - but it was Walcott who sent the supporters into raptures, as he took the ball off Giroud to rifle a low shot beyond Reina at his far post.

Both sides had chances to score a late winner - Giroud being denied by Reina in his side's closest attempt, while Szczesny was lucky to keep out a very late Suarez attempt - but neither could convert, as the game finished level.

Elsewhere, Chelsea failed to move six points clear of Spurs in the Premier League after Adam Le Fondre's late goal rescued a point for Reading.

Wayne Rooney scored twice to down Southampton © Getty Images

Strikes from Juan Mata - just before half-time - and Frank Lampard had Rafa Benitez's side cruising towards the finish line at the Madejski Stadium, but an 87th minutes finish from Le Fondre put the visitors on edge for the final five minutes.

And the substitute would complete the turnaround, as he was on hand in injury time to slide the ball home as Chelsea's desperate defending proved unsuccessful.

Benitez had pinpointed Mata before the match as his side's most influential player, and so it proved as the lithe Spaniard opened the scoring in first half injury time. He had Fernando Torres to thank for the assist, as the striker returned his compatriot the ball with a neat dink - with Mata running in to volley home from close range.

Twenty minutes after half-time it was 2-0, as Lampard rose highest to head home from a corner. That looked like being that for the Royals, but Le Fondre had different ideas after coming on in the 67th minute - as he slipped between defenders to turn home Hope Akpan through ball, before completing the comeback with side-foot finish after a deep free-kick had been pumped into the box.

It was an extra-important goal for Reading - as it lifted them out of the relegation zone at the expense of Wigan.

Manchester United had to come from behind to pick up all three points, but their task was more perfunctorily executed against strugglers Southampton.

Forward Jay Rodriguez put the visitors ahead after just three minutes at Old Trafford, as the ex-Burnley player took advantage of some confusion between Ryan Giggs and David de Gea to slip the ball home.

But United were back on level terms just minutes later as Wayne Rooney drove home from the penalty spot from a deflected Shinji Kagawa cross - and after 27 minutes Sir Alex Ferguson's side were ahead, as Rooney was again on hand to tap home from close range after Patrice Evra had headed the ball into his path.

United had further chances to extend their advantage but failed to take them - Robin van Persie seeing one strike amazingly clawed away by Artur Boruc - and Ferguson's men nearly paid the price for that, but Southampton could not quite manage to find a late equaliser despite some threatening advances.

A late strike from Gareth Bale grabbed Tottenham a share of the points in a 1-1 draw against Norwich at Carrow Road.

Andre Villas-Boas's side fell behind after 32 minutes to Wesley Hoolahan's strike, but with ten minutes remaining Bale rescued a point - getting the ball from Jermain Defoe before running with it and unleashing a hammered left-footed shot that was beyond Mark Bunn before the goalkeeper could get down to it.

Leighton Baines scored twice at Goodison Park © PA Photos

Elsewhere, a brace from Leighton Baines was enough for Everton to stave off a spirited West Brom fightback and claim all three points at Goodison Park - moving them within a point of fourth-placed Spurs.

Baines scored twice in the first half to raise the prospect of becoming the first defender in over 25 years to score a top-flight hat-trick, but in the end the England man had to settle for the double as Shane Long's finish set up a nervy final 25 minutes.

Baines opened the scoring on the half-hour, and in fine fashion too. After receiving the ball from Leon Osman, Baines used his trusty left-foot to rifle the ball beyond Ben Foster through a crowd of players.

In injury time at the end of the first-half he made it 2-0, this time from the penalty spot. Claudio Yacob was the guilty party for the Baggies - bringing down Victor Anichebe - but Foster was unable to bail his midfielder out, as Baines duly converted.

The Baggies created few clear-cut chances in the game but they were given a lifeline after 65 minutes, as Shane Long headed home from close range. An equaliser would not be forthcoming, however, as the Toffees improved their bid for Champions League football.

Finally, Fulham picked up a valuable 3-1 victory over West Ham at Craven Cottage.

Dimitar Berbatov opened the scoring after ten minutes to give the Cottagers the lead, but the Hammers restored parity minutes after half-time through Kevin Nolan. Hugo Rodallega got Fulham back ahead almost instantly, however, before the home side wrapped up the points in injury time - Mladen Petric's intervention ending with Joey O'Brien putting the ball into his own net.

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