Alexander strike frustrates Gunners

BY foxsports • December 16, 2009

Cesc Fabregas struck early as Arsenal started superbly at Turf Moor but Thomas Vermaelen's foul on the outstanding Andre Bikey allowed Alexander to equalise. Both sides hit the woodwork - Burnley twice and Arsenal once - and enjoyed a glut of other chances but neither could find a winner. It was another superb home performance by Owen Coyle's Burnley, who have now claimed 18 of their 19 points this season at their own ground. The result was a blow for Arsenal after Sunday's uplifting win at Liverpool and the loss of Fabregas before half-time might also be a concern. Burnley had hoped to evoke the spirit of last season's famous Carling Cup win over the Gunners by recalling their two-goal hero from that night, Kevin McDonald. Fabregas was included for Arsenal despite concern over a back injury and there seemed little problem as he ran the game for most of the opening 25 minutes. Before he could get into his stride, however, Burnley went within the width of the crossbar from claiming a remarkable opener through Vermaelen, who had a mixed night. The influential Chris Eagles floated a second-minute free-kick into the area and Clarke Carlisle's header was deflected goalwards as Vermaelen mistakenly headed backwards over Manuel Almunia. The Spanish keeper was forced to scramble back and just managed to palm the ball onto the woodwork before his defence cleared. Arsenal made the most of the reprieve and went ahead after seven minutes thanks to the persistence and class of Fabregas. Samir Nasri retrieved an attack after Carlisle had headed away a Theo Walcott cross. The ball then made its way to Fabregas on the edge of the area and neither McDonald nor Carlisle, despite several attempts, could get it off him as he weaved through and fired into the bottom corner. Arsenal then turned up the heat and Fabregas almost had a second moments later as he flicked over Carlisle and fired just wide. A strong run by Nasri could have created another shooting chance but Steven Caldwell's challenge was deemed just about legal. Andrey Arshavin then struck the foot of the post with a fierce left-footed drive from 18 yards. When Bakari Sagna fired over from long distance Arsenal were threatening to run riot but Burnley weathered the storm. Top scorer Steven Fletcher headed over from a corner and was then caught only marginally offside in forcing Almunia to make a difficult save. The Clarets then stung the visitors by levelling with 28 minutes gone. Bikey showed great skill in the area but was felled by a late Vermaelen lunge after a clever flick. Alexander then stepped up to fire home the 100th league goal of his career. Arsenal were stung into a response and a fine ball from Fabregas was seized on by Arshavin only for Brian Jensen to save well at the Russian's feet. It was developing into a compelling encounter and Burnley came back to force William Gallas to clear twice from dangerous Fletcher and Wade Elliott crosses. Arsenal suffered a serious blow as Fabregas was forced off two minutes before the interval but almost reclaimed the lead as Vermaelen met a Nasri cross with a powerful header and Jensen saved. After the high-tempo end to the first half, the opening to the second was rather subdued. Arsenal pieced a good move together to shift the ball from left to right but Walcott, having been frustrated by Stephen Jordan throughout, blazed over. Burnley burst back into life on the hour as Eagles beat Mikael Silvestre and Nasri on a powerful run and then blasted against the post. Fletcher then controlled a Bikey cross but shot over on the turn and had the ball in the net after 68 minutes only to be flagged offside. Almunia, having missed McDonald's low cross, was no doubt relieved. Arsenal fashioned two openings for substitute Eduardo soon after his introduction for Walcott, but the Croatian failed to get in a shot. Eagles then fired narrowly over and Eduardo had a free-kick comfortably saved by Jensen as both sides pushed to the end.

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