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Honours even but Gunners claim moral victory

Autor:[Rooney] Date:[2007-11-5 17:59:55]

LONDON (AFP) - If the respective reactions of the two managers is any guide, Arsenal emerged from their showdown with Manchester United with more to celebrate than the Premier League's reigning champions.

While a serene Arsene Wenger was praising the resilience his side had displayed to twice come from behind and claim a point with an injury-time equaliser from William Gallas, Sir Alex Ferguson allowed his frustration over the outcome to boil over.

Referee Howard Webb and the security arrangements at the Emirates Stadium were both subjected to an icy blast from the United manager, who came close to accusing the official of outright bias towards the home side.

"I think Howard Webb has a great chance to be the top referee but today was a big game for him and, at times, he favoured Arsenal," Ferguson said.

"Their second goal came from him not giving a free-kick for a foul on Louis Saha on the far side. It should have been a foul for us."

Ferguson went on to suggest that Webb had been swayed by a hostile crowd.

"It is very difficult for the referee," he said. "On our bench, we were getting terrible abuse from people two or three feet away from us.

"There is a lack of security here. It is absolutely disgraceful the abuse you and your staff take. All sorts of things are been shouted and screamed at you and there is an absolute danger here."

An encounter that, while undeniably dramatic, never lived up to its billing in terms of quality appeared set to end with Arsenal surrendering their unbeaten start to the season when Cristiano Ronaldo tucked in Patrice Evra's cutback with eight minutes left.

But Gallas, who had earlier given United the lead with an own goal, redeemed himself by volleying in at the back post in injury time.

It was a goal that gave Arsenal cause to be grateful to the referee's assistant, Darren Cann, who correctly judged that Gallas's shot had crossed the line before being kicked out by Nemanja Vidic.

"He did his job well, like you expect him to," Wenger acknowledged of a linesman he had branded a "liar" after Arsenal lost a stormy League Cup final to Chelsea last season.

"The referee interrupted the game and I thought he had given a free-kick against us for offside, so I had a surprise because the ball was in."

The draw leaves Arsenal ahead of United at the top of the table on the basis of their superior goal-scoring record but with the advantage of a game in hand.

Having watched his side come back to claim points away to Liverpool and at home to Manchester United over the last two weekends, Wenger believes they have demonstrated the resilience of potential champions.

He had targetted four points from the two matches but added: "It is satisfying to know that twice in two big, big games we could come from behind and you have to be special to do that."

Ferguson, in contrast, was deeply unhappy with his side's defending in the build-up to both Arsenal's equalisers.

"I think we have thrown it away," he said. "At 2-1 you think you've won the game and for them to get a second goal when they did - for us to give it way in injury-time - it is very hard to take I can tell you. It is a fact that they got out of jail."

Cesc Fabregas netted his 11th goal of the season two minutes after half-time to get Arsenal back on level terms for the first time.

"We spoke about it at half-time, the importance of not letting them back in and we started the second half well and then we lose a goal from having our own throw in near their corner flag," Ferguson said. "It's criminal."

Gallas came close to giving Arsenal the lead with a powerful header nine minutes before half-time that was superbly saved by Van der Sar.

Patrice Evra swept the loose ball to safety and United exploited that reprieve by taking the lead right on the stroke of half-time.

Wes Brown muscled Alexander Hleb off the ball on the right, sent Ronaldo to the touchline and the Portuguese winger fired in a low cross to the near post.

Wayne Rooney got there ahead of Gallas but his attempted flick did not look to be goalbound before the ball ricocheted off the defender's arm and into the net.

It was a crushing blow for the home side but it had been neutralised within two minuts of the restart.

Van der Sar did superbly well to block Adebayor's volley off a Thomas Rosicky chip into the box but Bacary Sagna was able to hook the loose ball back from the byline and Fabregas's cool head did the rest.

Rooney headed one good chance wide before Ronaldo restored United's advantage, only for it to be lost at the death.

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