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MOR WOE FOR WENGER; Striker Steve puts Gunners' Champions League place at risk.

Byline: MIKE ALLEN

ARSENAL 3 Benayoun 2, Van Persie 72, 80

NORWICH 3 Hoolahan 12, Holt 27, Morison 85

ROBIN VAN PERSIE took his Arsenal goal tally for the season to 37, but it was the ones he missed that will give him nightmares.

The Dutchman has scooped two Player of the Year awards in the past week, but the prize that could get away is a place in the Champions League. And that could, in turn, have a profound effect on Arsenal's chances of persuading him sign a new contract, or at least remaining a Gunner for the final year of his current contract.

The groans around the Emirates as Norwich substitute Steve Morison scored the sixth and final goal of the afternoon were matched only by the resounding cheers heard from White Hart Lane and St James' Park.

For both Spurs and Newcastle, the opportunity of third place and a certain spot in next season's Champions League has opened up again. And Arsenal have only themselves to blame, despite having a clear penalty denied them in the closing minutes.

So much depended on this match for Arsenal - and so little for Norwich.

Against the expectation of many, Norwich have had their Premier League future all but secured for some time.

And, after 65 seconds, it looked like the visitors, who had lost their previous three matches, were going to be on the end of a hiding when Yossi Benayoun tormented Kyle Naughton before curling a classic effort in from 18 yards.

But the Gunners inexplicably took their foot off the gas and Norwich worked their way back into it, led by the indefatigable Jonny Howson in midfield and Grant Holt and Simeon Jackson up front, who were too much of a hand?ful for the Arsenal central defence too often.

Wojciech Szczesny, who did not have one of his finest afternoons, gave Norwich a helping hand when he inexplicably spilled Wes Hoolahan's weak effort over the line to let Norwich bring the score back to 1-1.

And the Canaries were singing again when Holt, who nudged the ball into space all afternoon, sent Hoolahan sprinting down the middle before accepting a return ball and scored with a shot deflected off Kieran Gibbs that looped over Szczesny. Holt twice nearly extended Norwich's lead, but after the break Arsenal created chance after chance.

It's an all too familiar story at the Emirates - and one that may cost the club a fortune if they fail to make it into the Champions League for the 15th successive year.

It was an unhappy afternoon for Arsenal, with midfielder Aaron Ramsey given a rough ride by his own supporters and lucky to stay on the pitch, and Bacary Sagna carried off with a broken leg that will keep him out of the European Championship.

After a kick on it, he played on, only to collapse spectacularly as he tried to control a cross-field pass.

Van Persie against Norwich keeper John Ruddy became the key confrontation as the afternoon took one twist, then another, after the interval.

Norwich boss Paul Lambert said: "Van Persie is a fantastic player, and Ruddy was brilliant. He has been like that for three years. He is only 25, but looks 94."

After the keeper came out on top a couple of times, Van Persie finally got the better of him when, picked out with a superb ball by Alex Song, the striker fired home.

A few minutes later, Van Persie did it again when the ball fell kindly for him in the area, but Norwich's race was far from run and first Howson spurned a good chance before playing Steve Morison through to fire past hesitant Szczesny.

Somehow ref Anthony Taylor failed to award a penalty when Van Persie was felled by Naughton just a yard from goal as he was about to put the ball home.

It was a decision that could cost Arsenal pounds 30m in Champions League revenue and everything else that goes with it.

ALLEN'S VERDICT Oh, dear! Arsenal had it within their grasp and let it slip. The consequences of failing to gain the points could be felt this summer as Wenger targets players.

1-0 1-1 1-2 2-2 3-2 3-3 Killer stat Robin van Persie became only the sixth player to score 30 goals in a Premier League season 30

CAPTION(S):

BAC TO HOSPITAL: Sagna faces lay-off after breaking his leg YOSS, WE CAN DO ITOn-loan midfielder Benayoun opens the Arsenal account after two minutes s HOLT-ING THE ROT Canaries hit back with goals from Hoolahan and Holt, off Gibbs s VAN IN FULL DRIVEGunners hit back through who else but that man Van Persie.. twice s ON WING & A FLAIR Steve Morison slides the ball home to notch up a famous draw s
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 6, 2012
Words:801
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