Football: Merson rescues Arsenal

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The Independent Online
Queen's Park Rangers. . .1

Arsenal. . . . . . . . . 1

NINETEEN League games unbeaten and still not enough to keep pace with those irrepressible Geordies. It looks like win or bust for Arsenal next week in Copenhagen as far as European qualification next season is concerned after the events of last night.

With Martin Keown joining the possible absentee list with a pulled hamstring, the Gunners at this rate will be lucky to field a full complement of players against Parma in next Wednesday's European Cup-Winners' Cup final and a downbeat George Graham, their manager, conceded as much. 'I'm running out of players but there's no point worrying about things you can't influence.'

That said, he must have been having kittens when David Seaman went down clutching his ribs after he was caught by Bradley Allen's boot in the second half. After lengthy treatment he resumed and Graham breathed a sigh of relief.

It was just as well, not only because of his importance for Arsenal in next week's game but last night's also. Without him they would not even have had a point towards their complicated cause of qualifying for Europe via the Premiership.

Arsenal's central defenders seemed to have given up on that course judging by the way they allowed Gary Penrice to head a third-minute goal from Simon Barker's cross. Who needs Les Ferdinand, who was absent with a bruised knee?

Due to further indiscipline, Seaman was twice called upon to make last-ditch saves to deny a spritely Devon White before half-time.

Arsenal fans had barely finished whingeing about their team's first-half performance when they were level a minute after the resumption, Paul Merson slipping past three players to score with a rasping shot in off the bar.

Queen's Park Rangers (4-4-2): Roberts; Bardsley, Ready, Yates, Wilson; Holloway, Wilkins, Barker, Impey; White (Allen, h/t), Penrice. Substitutes not used: Brevett, Stejskal (gk).

Arsenal (4-4-2): Seaman; Dixon, Linighan, Adams, Keown (McGoldrick, 73); Flatts (Selley, h/t), Parlour, Morrow, Merson; Wright, Smith. Substitute not used: Miller (gk).

Referee: I J Borrett (Gt Yarmouth).