Arsenal's title chances were further dented after a frustrating 1-1 home draw against leaders Liverpool. The Gunners appeared in control of large swathes of the match, despite playing an entire half with only ten men after Adebayor was shown red.
AFP - Arsenal survived Emmanuel Adebayor's controversial dismissal to hold on for a 1-1 draw against Liverpool that left their title hopes hanging by a slender thread on Sunday.
Arsene Wenger's side were reduced to 10 men early in the second half at the Emirates Stadium when referee Howard Webb showed Togo striker Adebayor a second yellow card for barging into Alvaro Arbeloa.
Adebayor made little contact but the intent was there and Arsenal had to settle for a point that left both sides unsatisfied.
The Gunners had taken the lead through Robin van Persie's superb strike but Robbie Keane punished poor defending to draw Liverpool level before half-time.
Arsenal remain eight points behind leaders Liverpool and Aston Villa's impressive form has made even a top four finish far from certain for the north London club.
Official man-of-the-match van Persie was happy with his goal. "If you look at the goal it was a nice goal, one touch on my chest. It was a good goal," he told Sky sports though when asked whether it had been "Bergkampesque," added: "I'm not sure about that."
On the sending off incident, van Persie continued: "I did not see it but he (Adebayor) told me he did not touch him so I have to believe him."
Reds boss Rafa Benitez, watching from his sick bed after an operation to remove kidney stones, must have been frustrated at Liverpool's failure to make their one-man advantage count.
There won't be much Christmas cheer in the Benitez household if Chelsea take advantage of Liverpool's slip to go top with a win at Everton on Monday.
Benitez wasn't Liverpool's only notable absentee. Even more damaging than the loss of their manager was the hamstring strain that kept Fernando Torres sidelined and the flu bug that ruled out Javier Mascherano.
While victory would have guaranteed Liverpool top spot at Christmas, Arsenal's need for three points was far greater and it showed after a slow start from the Gunners.
Wenger's team sparked into life when Keane made a lunging tackle on Gael Clichy, earning a booking and a torrent of abuse from Arsenal fans who remembered his time at local rivals Tottenham.
Suddenly there was more energy to Arsenal. They snapped into tackles and zipped the ball about with intent before conjuring a sublime goal in the 24th minute.
Samir Nasri took possession just inside his own half and unfurled a sumptuous long pass towards van Persie. As Daniel Agger and Jamie Carragher dithered, van Persie controlled on his chest, turned away from Carragher and lashed a superb strike past Jose Reina.
The number of phone conversations going on down on the Liverpool bench suggested Benitez, in touch from his sick bed, wasn't a happy man. But he would have been celebrating in front of the television as Liverpool snatched an equaliser against the run of play in the 42nd minute.
Agger's long punt forward should have been dealt with by Johan Djourou, but he allowed the ball to bounce past him and Keane took full advantage, sprinting clear of the Arsenal defender before driving a first-time shot past Almunia.
Steven Gerrard should have put Liverpool ahead on the stroke of half-time when Dirk Kuyt crossed low into the six-yard box, but his stretching effort sailed over.
As if losing control of the match wasn't bad enough, Wenger suffered the added blow of seeing Cesc Fabregas limp off with a knee injury at half-time following a crunching tackle from Xabi Alonso, with Abou Diaby coming on for the Arsenal captain.
Liverpool picked up where they left off before the break and Lucas's powerful shot from the edge of the area forced a fine save from Almunia.
Wenger's side had just begun to build up a little momentum when Adebayor, already on a booking, sent Arbeloa sprawling in the 57th minute. Webb hesitated for a moment, then showed Adebayor a second yellow card to the fury of Wenger and the home fans.
Arsenal's anger was clear and every Liverpool tackle was greeted with cries for booking.
It was no surprise when van Persie and Bacary Sagna were booked for crude challenges born out of pure frustration.
Liverpool struggled to press home their advantage and only Agger, with a long range effort, and substitute Nabil El Zhar, who glanced his header wide, went close to snatching the win.
Date created : 2008-12-21