A brilliantly exciting match ended with Arsenal's Champions League aspirations perhaps mortally wounded
OK, I'll be absolutely clear about this: this match was scheduled for MBM coverage in the belief that it was being broadcast live in the UK. It is not. I am, therefore, left relying on dodgy internet streaming services. As I understand it, it is the people responsible for broadcasting these matches online who are breaking the law, and not the people watching them. If I've got this wrong, and it's the viewers who should be locked up, I'd like to make it absolutely clear that I'm not really using a dodgy internet streaming service at all. Absolutely not. Not at all. I'm am simply closing my eyes and imagining what might be happening. Honest guv.
Anyway, here are your teams:
Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Ramsey, Song, Gervinho, Rosicky, Benayoun, van Persie. Subs: Fabianski, Park, Andre Santos, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Djourou, Chamakh, Coquelin.
Norwich: Ruddy, Naughton, Ryan Bennett, Martin, Lappin, Johnson, Howson, Elliott Bennett, Hoolahan, Jackson, Holt. Subs: Steer, Morison, Surman, Pilkington, Fox, Wilbraham, Ward.
Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire).
Robin Van Persie is busy accepting an armful of player-of-the-season awards.
The players are in the tunnel. Action imminent.
1 min: Peeeeeeeep! They're off!
GOAL! Arsenal 1 Norwich 0 (Benayoun, 2 mins) What a start!
3 mins: Rosicky passes to Benayoun, out on the left wing. He cuts into the penalty area, shimmies a bit – a very slow-motion dribble, this one – and then curls a shot in at the far post that the keeper doesn't even bother diving for.
4 mins: Norwich do a bit of attacking, but Vermaelen does well to beat Holt to the header from a left-wing cross.
6 mins: CHANCE! Jackson crosses low from the left, behind three Arsenal defenders and to the feet of Grant Holt, whose left-foot shot flies into Gibbs.
8 mins: "Well, if the worst comes to the worst and you do get locked up for being party to alleged breaches of copyright Simon, I for one will happily join any 'Free the Guardian MBM One!' campaign," promises Ryan Dunne. Thanks, though that message of support may see you done as an accessory.
9 mins: Benayoun's attempted through-ball for Gervinho is slightly overhit. Quite an encouraging start here – very bright, both teams finding space. More goals to come, surely.
11 mins: Another cross from the left, and Holt wins the header ahead of an advancing goalkeeper, but sends the ball over the bar. "Whenever I watch football on dodgy streams, which should it be illegal to do so is never, I often find that it crashes at key moments," writes C Holligan. "The best way to get around this is to have the Guardian's Minute by Minute report open in another tab, so if the stream fails you still know what's going on. Maybe you could try this?" Nice idea, C – I'll give it a go.
GOAL! Arsenal 1 Norwich 1! (Hoolahan, 13 mins) Noughton crosses from the right, Hoolahan sidefoots it goalwards but it's straight at Szczesny, who helpfully shovels the ball into the net at the near post.
15 mins: Van Persie's first-time shot from the edge of the area curls over the bar. Arsenal have had most of the play, but Norwich have made the most penalty-area incursions.
17 mins: ESPN's FA Cup coverage, which I've got running silently in the corner of my screen, enters its sixth hour with The Enemy playing live from Wembley.
19 mins: Jackson plays in Holt, whose shot is well saved, and the linesman raises her flag anyway.
20 mins: Ramsey gets booked for the day's first nasty challenge, on Howson.
22 mins: There's no sense of Arsenal superiority currently, and their defence seem rather predictably unsettled by the classy muscularity of Holt. "May I offer a legal alternative to your 'streaming' issue," offers Phil Withall. Yes Phil, you may. "I'll watch from Australia, email you (minus any negative moments for Norwich) and you cut/paste as required." Cheers Phil, but to judge from the scoreflashes coming in from the Press Association my imagination is currently being remarkably accurate.
25 mins: My imagination is playing tricks on me. Phil Withall, get emailing.
GOAL! Arsenal 1 Norwich 2! (Holt, 27 mins) Grant Holt shoots from the edge of the area, and the ball clips the heel of a defender and loops over Szczesny into the back of the net! And I am now imagining this match with German commentary which I can't understand in any way.
29 mins: CHANCE! Sagna crosses low from the right, Van Persie slides in at the near post, but just misses the ball. In the build-up Jackson fouled Koscielny, who is now receiving treatment. Jackson has been booked.
32 mins: I've just seen all of Norwich's goal, which was scored during a brief spell when my imagination was down. A lovely break from Norwich, who had nine players in their penalty area about 15 seconds before it was scored. While it's been shown, Sagna has been stretchered off after collapsing for no apparent reason. Coquelin has replaced him.
37 mins: CHANCE! Gervinho gets into the area, and Gibbs sends his cutback zipping wide of goal. I've been asked for some Arteta stats, so: he has played 31 games this season, of which 18 have been won, four have been drawn and nine lost.
39 mins: Arsenal have won two of the five matches he's missed entirely. But yes, they certainly look much better with him in the team than without him, that much is clear.
40 mins: This is end-to-end stuff at the minute. Norwich have a penalty appeal turned down – Coquelin just getting a foot to the ball – and five seconds later Gervinho is giving the ball away in the other penalty area.
42 mins: Bennett crosses from the right. It looks like Martin is going to win the header at the near post, but Koscielny yanks his shirt, pulls him to his knees and then overhead-kicks him in the head. No penalty.
45 mins: We're going to have four minutes of stoppage time, and they get under way with Robin Van Persie working the ball to a good crossing position on the byline and then shooting anyway, into Ruddy's chest.
45+2 mins: Norwich should be bored to the point of offensiveness by this kind of condescension this season, but Norwich's performance today is really excellent, particularly given that they're supposed to have started their summer holidays a few weeks back. Anyway, Vermaelen's just been booked for a foul on Jackson.
45+4 mins: Peeeeeeep! Koscielny having denied Holt what seemed a certain goal with a saving tackle, it's half-time! And Arsenal are a) losing, and b) rubbish!
Half-time: German television is, I imagine, showing me the goals from Chelsea v Newcastle right now. This pleases me. I really could watch them very many times before getting bored.
As for Arsenal, this is depressing stuff. Given that they went a goal up after 68 seconds against a team that has lost their last three matches and won two in 12, the following 47 minutes could scarcely have gone any worse. The issue is their central midfield, which appears not to exist.
Still half time but not for long – the players are back out.
46 mins: Peeeeeeep! They're off! Again! And I am now in a position to confirm that a) Delia is here, and b) she isn't famous in Germany.
49 mins: Arsenal have started the second half brightly, but a series of left-wing crosses have been poorly aimed. "On the evidence of this performance, Grant Holt should certainly be in the England squad for the Euros, if not the starting lineup," writes Adithya. "His flicks seem to go just where he wants them! He'd be perfect for England in that whatever he does, he seems to do well, which cannot often be said for the national team." I certainly think that Holt v Crouch for the role of England's-big-man is quite a close call, but Crouch will probably win it because he's more established and has better (and really quite prolific) international experience.
51 mins: Van Persie drills the ball across the face of goal, but a flat-footed Benayoun fails to anticipate it. "Just woke up in the US and guessed it was 2.1 and it is," writes Damian Durrant. We call it 2-1 here, but go on. "because Arsenal always do the 'we cant be fagged' fade in the last few games, and let's face it when we are bad, we are awful. Fifth place here we come."
52 mins: CHANCE! Jackson beats his man and pegs it into the penalty area, but his low shot isn't up to much and Szczesny saves.
54 mins: Ramsey should have been sent off then, for a nasty foul on (identity obscured by inconvenient pop-up ad). Definitely worth a booking, but he's already had one and got away with a talking-to instead.
57 mins: CHANCE! Rosicky lifts a free-kick into the penalty area, and Benayoun rises unmarked to head straight at Ruddy from six yards out.
58 mins: CHANCE! Noughton thrashes a cross in from the right, and Jackson throws himself at the ball but fails to meet it.
58 mins: CHANCE! Grant Holt buys his ticket for the assist-of-the-season lottery, with a lovely chipped ball over the top of the defence, but Jackson shoots wide.
59 mins: CHANCE! Benayoun touches the ball to Van Persie, 11 yards out, but his right-foot shot is pushed away by the keeper. The ball is worked back out to Gervinho, whose low ball in should have been converted by Ramsey only for the midfielder to get his legs in a muddle and miss the ball completely.
60 mins: CHANCE! Really, the last few minutes have been totally ridiculous. It ends with Szczesny's lazy clearance thwacking into the onrushing Holt, but he just about gets away with it.
63 mins: The disappointing Ramsey comes off, with Oxlade-Chamberlain getting a very good cheer from the crowds as he replaces him. "If Arsenal don't make the Champions League then RVP is more likely to be a goner than Gunner," writes Mark David Judd. "They need to buck their ideas up and quick, particularly as they have West Brom in the last game who will no doubt want to give Roy a good send off." Indeed. If Arsenal lose here then Spurs, who looked out of contention a couple of weeks back, will surely be favourites for third spot.
66 mins: CHANCE! Benayoun again with the assist, passing the ball through to Van Persie, whose right-footed shot flies wide of the near post.
67 mins: CHANCE! Gervinho's excellent run into the area (I know!) ends with a low ball inside for the onrushing Vermaelen, whose goalbound shot hits Bennett and bounces clear. Arsenal are, to use the technical term, knocking on the door here.
69 mins: Norwich bring Morison on for Jackson, while Arsenal bring off Benayoun, Chamakh replacing him.
72 mins: CHANCE! Oh, and a goal! Arsenal 2 Norwich 2 (Robin Van Persie, 72 mins) Another excellent block from Bennett, to deny Chamakh a first-touch goal. The ball is cleared to Song, who chips one of his trademark passes over the defence, and Van Persie runs clear to volley in left-footed.
74 mins: Gervinho, who has switched to the left since Chamberlain's arrival, is having an excellent game. Top dribbling. Anyway, Arsenal send in a corner from the right, and Chamakh heads over at the near post.
76 mins: Van Persie and Chamakh exchange passes, allowing the Dutchman to burst into the area before shooting at Ruddy. Norwich have done excellently today, but they're clinging on currently.
77 mins: There doesn't seem to be much love lost between Song and Holt, who have been involved in constant griping and occasional kicking and shoving over the last 20 minutes or so.
79 mins: Over on ESPN, The Enemy are playing again. You've got to fill nine hours of build-up with nothing.
GOAL! Arsenal 3 Norwich 2 (Van Persie, 80 mins) Arsenal get a lucky break, and make full use of it. Gervinho, typically, is at the start of it. Rosicky passes to Chamberlain, who tries to lay the ball back to Coquelin only for it to hit a defender and bounce straight to the feet of Van Persie, 10 yards out, who turns and scores.
81 mins: Wilbraham comes on for Holt. This is tough on Norwich, who could easily have been 4-1 and a man up before Arsenal equalised.
GOAL! Arsenal 3 Norwich 3 (Morison, 85 mins) From nowhere! Howson plays the ball over Vermaelen, into the path of Morison, whose run has not been tracked by Koscielny. He shoots low, the ball arrowing into the net at the far post.
87 mins: GREAT CHANCE! Rosicky's pass finds Van Persie in the penalty area. He's clean through on goal, but shoots straight at the goalkeeper. The ball loops up, and is headed just wide of an empty net.
88 mins: MISS! PENALTY CLAIM! DENIED! Chamberlain crosses from the right, Gervinho (who was offside) totally misses it at the near post and Van Persie seems about to tap the ball in when he suddenly flies forwards. Did Noughton push him? Would he have thrown himself into the net if he hadn't? Surely not!
90+1 mins: CHANCE! Chamakh crosses low from the right, and Song improvises a backheeled shot which hits Ruddy's standing leg and bounces clear.
90+2 mins: Wilbraham is booked for jumping into Koscielny arm-first. 21 men pack the box for the free-kick, which is rubbish.
90+4 mins: Arsenal have a corner! Can they conjury a win?
90+4 mins: No! But it's close! Ruddy has pulled off three great saves in the last 30 seconds, plus Vermaelen's low cross sped across goal to safety. The best save was from Gibbs's close-range header.
90+5 mins: Peeeeeeeeep! It's all over!
Full time: Speaking as a neutral, let me make one thing clear: that was magnificent entertainment. The kind of match that would make an alien a football fan for life. Clearly, a match with six goals and about 47 near-misses could upset purists or Italians – catenaccio it ain't – but it made for a thrilling couple of hours.
For Arsenal, though, it was disastrous. Spurs, who thought their Champions League chances had been destroyed by their own terrible result at home to Norwich a month ago, now have qualification in their own hands: victory at Aston Villa tomorrow, and at home to Blackburn a week later, would secure them third place. Arsenal are likely to travel to West Bromwich Albion on the league's final day hoping for the best, and Newcastle could yet finish above them as well.
In the final analysis Arsenal had more, and better, chances. They will feel this match should have been won. But they should bear in mind that Aaron Ramsey, who was poor throughout, should have been sent off with 35 minutes to play and Norwich leading 2-1, and enjoying their best period. From there, an away win would surely have been a probability.
Interesting quote from Steve Morison: "I think we got the result here because Arsenal thought we were going to be a pushover."
Anyway, I'm off. It's been enormously fun. Byee!