SOUTHAMPTON: Arsenal was held to a 2-2 draw at Southampton on Tuesday, leaving the door open for one of its rivals to seize the Premier League lead.
Arsenal recovered from a goal down after being thoroughly outplayed in the first half to go up 2-1 thanks to quick goals by Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla after the restart.
But Southampton fought back immediately with Adam Lallana slotting in the equalizer just two minutes after Cazorla´s goal, and Arsenal was reduced to 10 men when Mathieu Flamini was sent off for a two-footed tackle with 10 minutes left.
Both teams still pushed for a winner, with Southampton coming closest and forcing goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny to make a couple of good saves in the closing minutes.
Arsenal is now two points ahead of Manchester City and three ahead of Chelsea, who both play on Wednesday.
If both their rivals win, the Gunners could find themselves suddenly in third.
And after arguably its worst half of the season, many were again questioning the title credentials of Arsene Wenger´s team at the halftime break. “In the first half, if you had said we take a point tonight, I don´t believe you,” Wenger said.
Jose Fonte put the hosts ahead when he jumped over Nacho Monreal at the far post to head in from close range, although Szczesny arguably should have kept it out.
Sam Gallagher, making his full debut at the age of 18, should have doubled the hosts´ advantage soon after when Monreal´s clearance fell into his path, but he shot well wide from just in front of goal.
Arsenal came out much more aggressively in the second half, however, and quickly turned the game on its head.
Just three minutes after the restart, Bacary Sagna met an over-hit cross on the right flank and sent a low cross across the goalmouth, which Giroud deftly deflected into the net.
It was the Frenchman´s fourth goal in five matches in all competitions — a record Cazorla bettered in the 52nd minute when he collected a pass from Mesut Ozil and beat Artur Boruc from the edge of the box to make it five in five.