Van Persie double in vain as Arsenal held in 3-3 thriller
Arsenal wasted the chance to go four points clear of Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United.
LONDON - Third-placed Arsenal wasted the chance to go four points clear of Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United, when they were held to a thrilling 3-3 home draw by Norwich City on Saturday, despite a double from Robin van Persie.
Finishing third in the Premier League guarantees a Champions League group stage berth next season, but fourth spot might only be worth a Europa League place if finalists Chelsea win this term's European Cup.
Yossi Benayoun put Arsenal in front after 70 seconds of their penultimate match of the campaign before Norwich hit back with goals from Wesley Hoolahan and Grant Holt.
Van Persie, the league's top scorer, took his tally for the season to 30 with two goals in the 72nd and 80th minutes but Steve Morison rescued a point for the visitors with five minutes to go in the only Premier League game of the day.
Fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur, at Aston Villa, and fifth-placed Newcastle, at home to leaders Manchester City, play their games in hand on Sunday.
City and Manchester United are locked together on 83 points. United host Swansea City on Sunday.
Arsenal made a flying start when Tomas Rosicky fed Benayoun on the left of the penalty box and the Israeli cut inside to deliver a curling finish beyond goalkeeper John Ruddy.
Norwich, 13th in the table, equalised in the 12th minute when Kyle Naughton set up Hoolahan and he shot low into the bottom corner.
Hoolahan was also involved when Holt boosted his hopes of an England callup for Euro 2012 next month by converting his 14th league goal of the season on 27 minutes.
Footballer of the Year Van Persie then came to the rescue for Arsenal, as he has done so often this season, with his late double blast.
Battling mid-table side Norwich refused to surrender though and Morison levelled.
"I think Arsenal thought we were going to be a pushover today. We came here with nothing to play for but you can see from the way we played how much it means to the lads," Morison said.
"We have got fantastic team spirit and today we showed what we are all about. At the start of the season we had a target of 40 points and we have got there and then some."
Van Persie spurned an excellent chance to claim a hat-trick in stoppage time when he was foiled by Ruddy in a one-on-one with the keeper.
Then, in a breathless finale, referee Anthony Taylor ignored appeals for a penalty when Van Persie was shoved at the far post just as he seemed certain to convert a cross from substitute Marouane Chamakh.
Arsenal's final league fixture of the season is at mid-table West Bromwich Albion next Sunday.