Highbury uproar as three sent off

Vieira distraught after second red card in three days but goals by Lauren and Henry prove decisive
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The Independent Online

Arsenal were still playing, and heading for their first victory of the season, when Patrick Vieira left Highbury in shame and anger last night having been dismissed for the second time in three days.

Arsenal were still playing, and heading for their first victory of the season, when Patrick Vieira left Highbury in shame and anger last night having been dismissed for the second time in three days.

He was not the only man sent off on a night of madness in the famous old stadium, Gary McAllister and Dietmar Hamann were also given the red card by Graham Poll, but it is the Frenchman, sent off at Sunderland on Saturday, who Arsenal will be counselling today.

Having lost Emmanuel Petit, partly in frustration at English referees, Arsÿne Wenger will be desperate not to lose another World Cup winning midfielder. "I don't think he will leave the English game," said Wenger, "but there is always a danger. I hope not."

Wenger, who has now seen 31 Arsenal players sent off under his command, added: "He is very disappointed tonight. But time is a great healer."

McAllister, dismissed for the first time in the Premiership, will be equally upset. Nor will his German team-mate be happy. While none of the dismissals were clear-cut, the third, of Hamann, was extremely harsh. While Vieira had thrown his shirt off before leaving the pitch, and McAllister departed stunned, Hamann walked off laughing at the inanity of it all.

The dismissals took the shine off a deserved Arsenal wins, secured by goals at each end of the game by Lauren, who made an impressive first start for Arsenal, and Thierry Henry.

But, as Gérard Houllier said: "We are all talking about the referee. There must be something wrong when that happens."

The Liverpool manager added: "He wrecked our game. When you are 1-0 down at Highbury, and it is 10 v 11, and your second game in three days, the match is over. We did not play well, I accept that, but I would have liked the chance to play 11 against 11, or, if the referee prefers, 10 against 10. We have never won a match with Graham Poll refereeing.

"How could he send McAllister off for a tackle like that when there are similar tackles all over the pitch. I hope the FA look at that with their new video panel.

Quite how the Football Association, who announced before the season that it will be cracking down on indiscipline, will react will be very interesting. Liverpool, for receiving six cards in a match - they also had four further bookings - will automatically be fined £25,000 for a start. Vieira, whose disciplinary record is only exceeded by Vinnie Jones in Premiership history - this was his sixth dismissal - will receive at least a five-match ban.

Henry, who tried to console Vieira as he left the pitch, said: "My goal is not important. It was important to win but I feel sad. We have to think about Patrick. Obviously he has a bit of an attitude on the pitch, but he is a nice guy. He does notdeserve that. It will be difficult for him to respond."

Poll's problems began in the seventh minute. Arsenal had already gone close through Henry when Lauren won a corner. Except it was not a corner.

Houllier said of the decision: "How could he not see it. We could see it from the dug-out. He did not know, the linesman did not know. He is supposed to give the defending side the advantage. It was ablatant error. Thirty-eightthousand people could see it"

Silvinho took the corner, Sander Westerveld flapped ineffectually at it, and Lauren drove the ball in via an Adams deflection.

Liverpool, without Michael Owen or Steven Gerrard - a worrying sign for Kevin Keegan before he announces his next England squad on Thursday - struggled to get into the game after that, but had begun to press, David Seaman saving Sami Hyppia's header, when McAllister was dismissed.

Having lost control of the ball in midfield, he slid in on Vieira. As Vieira writhed in agony, Poll showed the former Scotland captain the red card. It looked a harsh decision, Vieira's pain - he resumed after a few minutes treatment -appeared to be caused by the weight of McAllister's body trapping his standing leg rather than his flailing feet.

Arsenal, unsurprisingly, were the stronger side and Henry continued to trouble Westerveld, but wasted a clear chance to take the heat out of the game and settle it when, after 57 minutes, he miskicked when set up by Lauren's cross. The ball still ran to Bergkamp, but his shot was acrobatically headed off the line by Stéphane Henchoz.

Liverpool remained in the game, and the game remained fiercely contested, with Seaman forced to make a stunning save from a 30-yard Hamann drive. Then Vieira clashed with Jamie Carragher - who had earlier escaped punishment for a forearm smash on Robert Pires - and both were booked.

Vieira, still angry, chased every yellow shirt he saw until launching a two-footed lunge at Hamann. He played ball rather than man, but the wildness of the tackle convinced Poll to give him another yellow.

"He is emotional and I had thought about substituting him, but it was too quick," admitted Wenger. "But he went for the ball on both occasions. You will say I try to protect him but it was harsh."

Now it was 10 v 10, but not for long as Hamann, duelling with Pires, was booked for pulling him back. "They were just wrestling," said Houllier, "it happens all the time."

As the nine men gambled for a point Henry broke away and, at the second attempt, sealed victory. It was Arsenal's first against Liverpool for 14 matches over seven seasons but, last night, that seemed of little consequence to either set of fans. Instead they joined in a deafening chorus of boos for Poll and chanted "send the ref off".

Arsenal (4-4-2): Seaman; Luzhny, Keown, Adams, Silvinho; Lauren, Grimandi, Vieira, Pires; Bergkamp (Kanu, 76), Henry. Substitutes not used: Dixon, Cole, Vernazza, Manninger (gk).

Liverpool (4-4-1-1): Westerveld; Babbel, Henchoz, Hyypia, Traoré; Barmby (Murphy, 78), Hamann, Carragher, Smicer (Owen, 71); McAllister; Heskey (Meijer, 80). Substitutes not used: Song, Arphexad (gk).

Referee: G Poll.

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