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21:46 16th December 2009


A Graham Alexander penalty stopped Arsenal's Barclays Premier League title push in its tracks as the Clarets produced another heroic performance at a highly charged Turf Moor.

The ageless Alexander struck his fifth goal of the season - and 100th in regular League football - with almost half an hour gone to cancel out an early strike from Cesc Fabregas.

Yet a point was the minimum Burnley deserved for a display that was every bit as good as the one that counted for Manchester United to mark the Clarets' return home as a top flight club in August.

Arsenal were just as shaken as the champions had been and only a controversial off-side decision with 20 minutes to go denied Steven Fletcher a deserved winner.

Fletcher was an inspirational figured in an inspired team effort built from the back, where revitalised goalkeeper Brian Jensen repelled an early onslaught from the Gunners as they looked to avenge last season's Carling Cup defeat.

They only partially managed it and while the Clarets were unable to pull far clear of the closing pack beneath them they again showed, with crucial games to come against Wolves and Bolton, that they are more than good enough to prosper at this level.

If Burnley had been seeking the perfect start it almost came their way after just two minutes as Arsenal survived by only the width of the crossbar.

Fabregas fires Arsenal ahead

Chris Eagles' free-kick was well met by Clarke Carlisle and from his header the ball glanced off the head of Thomas Vermaelen and looped over Manuel Almunia, who had to dive backwards to keep it out of his own net with a touch onto the top of the bar.

The promise was short-lived, however, as Fabregas quickly pounced to put Arsenal in front, seizing on a uncertainty by Andre Bikey to pinch the ball and steer a low shot into the bottom corner.

And that seemed to knock the confidence out of the Clarets for a spell as Arsenal threatened to run away with it.

Fabregas volleyed into the side netting, Brian Jensen saved at the feet of Samir Nasi and the elusive Andrei Arshavin cracked a left foot drive against the base of a post.

But Burnley gradually played their way into contention as they bravely pushed Arsenal onto the back foot.

Kevin McDonald, who was given his second league start of the season in place of Robbie Blake, grew in stature and with Chris Eagles and Fletcher playing the Gunners at their own game the momentum began to shift.

All square thanks to Grezza

And with 27 minutes gone the Clarets were level. Another well constructed build-up ended with Stephen Jordan feeding the ball into Bikey.

The midfielder looked to line up a shot but as he waited for the ball to drop had his legs taken away by Vermaelen and referee Mike Dean immediately pointed to the spot.

Alexander did his usual job of drilling home the penalty, extending his 100 per cent record in claret and blue to 14 successful spot-kicks, and Turf Moor's biggest crowd of the season erupted.

Jensen kept the atmosphere bubbling with an instant save from Arshavin -put through by Fabregas before the Arsenal captain limped off - and in first-half stoppage time made another key save, tipping over a Vermaelen header at full stretch.

So close to an Eagles winner

But Arsenal were just as glad to go into the break level as Fletcher, Eagles and Wade Elliott stretched them to the limit in a gripping passage of play.

The pace remained unrelenting at the start of the second half with Burnley continuing to take the fight to the title hopefuls and a poor clearance from Almunia gave Bikey a shooting chance which he failed to connect with cleanly as the Gunners' keeper gratefully gathered.

Arsenal looked decidely uncomfortable whenever Burnley put them under pressure and with 62 minutes gone the Clarets were a whisker away from going in front through the irrepressible Eagles.

The winger was having another magnificent match and he left Mikael Silvestre and Alexandre Song in his wake before unleashing a stinging drive which beat Almunia but cannoned back off a post.

With Arsenal taking off Theo Walcott after the England man had been played out of the game by Jordan the best chances were all coming Burnley's way and Fletcher went close with a volley on the turn from Bikey's pass.

Honours even

And Fletcher then had the ball in the net with 69 minutes gone but from a cross from the magnificent McDonald he was judged off-side when there looked to be nothing in it.

Tired legs began to tell as Arsenal sniffed a possible winner at the other end but Eagles would not stop trying and twice he almost snatched it for the Clarets, first shooting against William Gallas and then cracking another effort just over the top before being withdrawn with Fletcher to a standing ovation.

Burnley: Jensen, Mears, Jordan, Carlisle, Caldwell, Alexander, Bikey (Gudjonsson 70), Elliott, McDonald, Fletcher (Nugent 83), Eagles (Blake 83). Substitutes: Penny, Kalvenes, Thompson, Guerrero.

Arsenal: Almunia, Diaby, Sagna, Fabregas (Ramsey 43), Vermaelen, Nasri, Gallas, Walcott (Eduardo 64), Song, Silvestre, Arshavin. Substitutes: Vela, Wilshere, Fabianski, Eboue, Thomas.

Referee: Mike Dean

Attendance: 21,309

    Data provided by Press Association