BY STEVE MITCHELL
RAY KENNEDY OWN GOAL GIVES ARSENAL THE POINTS AGAINST WASTEFUL LIVERPOOL
On a day that saw half of the First Division league fixtures wiped out due to the wintry conditions, Liverpool failed to put more daylight between themselves and the chasing pack after suffering only their second league defeat of the season at Highbury.
Arsenal old boy Ray Kennedy was the unfortunate goalscorer that gave the Gunners the points after putting through his own net on the half-hour mark, but the visitors will be frustrated that they failed to convert a host of chances that on another day would have seen them returning to Merseyside with another win in their pockets.
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Highburyâ€™s excellent undersoil heating system ensured the match could go ahead despite the playing surface still being a little hard in places and ten minutes before kick-off, police were called into the Clock End of Highbury as trouble flared between rival fans.
Once the action got under way on the field, it was Liverpoolâ€™s dynamic Scotsman Kenny Dalglish that was causing the home defence all sorts of problems and after his shot cannoned off the crossbar in the opening exchanges, one could sense this might not be Liverpoolâ€™s day.
Northern Ireland international Pat Rice had Arsenalâ€™s first real effort but his shot, despite having Redsâ€™ goalkeeper Ray Clemence stretching, flashed just past the post. Liverpool centre-half Phil Thompson failed to capitalise on a Terry McDermott free-kick as his shot was easily saved by Pat Jennings in the Arsenal goal.
Then came the key moment of the match; Frank Stapleton made a darting run into the visitorsâ€™ penalty box before firing in an effort which Clemence could only parry; unfortunately for Liverpool, Ray Kennedy, who was being strongly challenge by David Price, could only turn the ball into his own net to give the hosts the lead. Arsenal, inspired by their stroke of good fortune ended the half the stronger but failed to capitalise on their lead.
Dalglish was straight into the action as the second-half got underway as Liverpool pressed for a quick response. Bob Paisleyâ€™s men were now the sharper of the two sides and playing the kind of football that has seen them lead the division all season. Graeme Souness had Jennings scrambling as the big Irishman used all his height to pluck the ball out of the air as it looked bound for the goal.
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Liverpool then had a penalty claim waved away by the referee after Dalglish was obstructed by Arsenal centre-half Willie Young. Steve Heighway also went close as the pressure intensified. The home side still had their moments however, with Liam Brady displaying his abundant talents and almost settling the contest with an exquisite free-kick that was well saved by Clemence.
The refereeâ€™s notebook was out minutes before the end as tempers began to fray when Young scythed down McDermott producing the gameâ€™s real flashpoint; both men having their names taken. More late Liverpool pressure failed to break down the home sideâ€™s rear-guard and the league leaders will be disappointed that they failed to extend their advantage at the top of the table.
Liverpoolâ€™s attention now turns to the European Super Cup first-leg as they travel to Brussels to face Belgian giants Anderlecht before next weekendâ€™s showdown against champions Nottingham Forest at Anfield.
WEEK 18 ROUND-UP:
Bristol City enjoyed a narrow 1-0 win over Derby County at Ashton Gate thanks to a second-half goal from full-back Don Gillies. Ipswich Townâ€™s mini revival came to an end at Portman Road as they were beaten 3-2 by the ever improving Leeds United. Ray Hankin, Carl Harris and Trevor Cherry made it seven unbeaten for Jimmy Adamson since taking over at Elland Road; Kevin Beattie and a John Wark penalty were only consolations for the FA Cup holders.
Queens Park Rangers continue to struggle as they were beaten at Loftus Road 3-1 by Bolton. A Frank Worthington double and one from Alan Gowling saw the visitors head back north with the points. Rachid Harkouk got the home sideâ€™s consolation.
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Finally, Southampton heaped more pressure on Birmingham City as the Saints won 1-0 at The Dell. Phil Boyer got the only goal of the game to keep the Blues one off the bottom having played a game more than Chelsea now.
FIRST DIVISION RESULTS â€“ SATURDAY DECEMBER 2
Arsenal 1-0 Liverpool (Kennedy R. o.g.)
Bristol City 1-0 Derby County (Gillies)
Ipswich Town 2-3 Leeds United (Beattie, Wark pen; Hankin, Harris, Cherry)
Q.P.R. 1-3 Bolton Wanderers (Harkouk; Gowling, Worthington 2)
Southampton 1-0 Birmingham City (Boyer)
Aston Villa v Coventry City
Everton v W.B.A.
Manchester United v Norwich City
Middlesbrough v Tottenham Hotspur
Nottingham Forest v Chelsea
Wolves v Manchester City
UPCOMING FIXTURES â€“ SATURDAY DECEMBER 9
Birmingham City v Everton
Bolton Wanderers v Wolves
Chelsea v Aston Villa
Coventry v Q.P.R.
Derby County v Manchester United
Leeds United v Bristol City
Liverpool v Nottingham Forest
Manchester City v Southampton
Norwich City v Arsenal
Tottenham Hotspur v Ipswich Town
W.B.A. v Middlesbrough
FOLLOW THE WHOLE 1978-79 SEASON IN THE ENGLISH FIRST DIVISION WITH STEVE MITCHELL HERE ON THE FOOTBALL PINK. FOLLOW HIM ON TWITTER @barafundler