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Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2010

Reina gifts Arsenal opening draw

LIVERPOOL, England (AP) Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina accidentally pushed the ball into his own net to hand Arsenal a 1-1 draw at Anfield in their Premier League opener on Sunday.

News photo
Can't hang on: Liverpool's Pepe Reina concedes an own goal against Arsenal during the opening match of the Premier League season for both teams on Sunday at Anfield. The match ended in a 1-1 draw. AP PHOTO

The ball rebounded off Reina after Marouane Chamakh's header hit the goal post in the 90th minute to cancel out David Ngog's powerful strike.

"We defended very well and it's unfortunate to give a goal away at the end," Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher said. "It doesn't matter if you've got 10 or 11 (players), and we're very disappointed it's not even a goal where they've used their man advantage."

The equalizer came after Liverpool overcame Joe Cole's sending off at the end of the first half to take the lead at the start of the second when Ngog beat Manuel Almunia.

Laurent Koscielny, who was the victim of Cole's red-card lunge, was sent off himself in second-half injury time after being shown a second yellow card for handling.

"I believe we got a deserved equalizer because I couldn't see Arsenal losing a game like this without being deeply hurt," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said.

This was Roy Hodgson's first significant challenge as Liverpool manager, having replaced Rafa Benitez after last season's disappointing seventh-place finish.

Hodgson's mission to build confidence was helped by pledges of loyalty from captain Steven Gerrard and Spain striker Fernando Torres, who replaced Ngog in the 74th minute having recovered from the groin injury sustained in the July 11 World Cup final.

Arsenal's main offseason success was rejecting Barcelona's continued pursuit of Cesc Fabregas, who missed the opener with a chest infection.

Wenger's youthful squad is chasing the club's first Premier League title since 2004 and the Frenchman handed Jack Wilshere his first Arsenal start.

Wilshere's main talking point before being replaced in the second half was a lunge on Javier Mascherano in the 40th minute which earned him a booking.

A similarly reckless challenge saw Cole red-carded with half time approaching for a mistimed challenge on Koscielny, who was stretchered off but re-emerged at the start of the second half.

"There was certainly no intention from Joe Cole to foul the player, that's out of the question," Hodgson said. "He's throwing himself to try to block the ball."

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