at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
London – Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admitted his side have made things hard for themselves after the 3-3 draw with Norwich at the Emirates dealt a bitter blow to their hopes of securing Champions League football next season.
An equaliser from substitute Steve Morison five minutes from time leaves Arsenal without a victory from their last three home fixtures.
And with their run of 14 consecutive seasons playing in European football's top club competition now in real jeopardy ahead of the trip to face West Brom next Sunday, Wenger is preparing himself for a week of real tension ahead of the nail-biting climax.
“It leaves with one mathematical thing - it is not in our hands anymore,” he said.
“We have to wait for the results to see where it leaves us tomorrow (Sunday) night. We knew that if we didn't win today, that what would happen, that it's not in our hands.”
Asked whether he thought his team deserved to qualify for the Champions League given their stuttering form of late, Wenger added: “It depends on what you mean by deserve. We have 67 points, and every year you qualify with 67 points.”
Despite a goal inside the opening 70 seconds from Yossi Benayoun, Norwich deservedly went in 2-1 ahead at the break after a gaffe from Wojciech Szczesny gifted Wes Hoolahan the equaliser and Grant Holt scored his 16th of the season.
A double from Robin van Persie looked like it would be enough to rescue the points for Wenger's side but Morison's late strike means Arsenal haven't won at home since beating Manchester City 1-0 back on April 8.
Norwich boss Paul Lambert admitted he was delighted with his team and believes his players have surpassed all expectations since he took over with the club struggling in League One in 2009.
“I've said to the players that I'm so proud of what they've given this season and this highlighted it even more. We were outstanding,” he said.
“I thought Spurs was as good as anything in my time here but this might surpass it. They have done that for the three years I have been here -play with a freedom.
“I never set my stall out to get beat. We might get turned over but we never go anywhere to frustrate teams. I think we were unlucky not to win the game.”
By contrast, a broken leg for Bacary Sagna provided more bad news for Wenger, with the French defender now set to miss Euro 2012.
Van Persie was presented with his PFA and Football Writers' Player of the year awards on the pitch before the match but endured a difficult afternoon until he finally found his scoring touch 18 minutes from time.
Another smart finish to take his season's tally in the Premier League to 30 seemed to have secured a vital three points for Arsenal, before Morison's late intervention.
And Wenger admitted his side's display had simply not been good enough.
“It is more than frustrating because we were very poor in the first half, not switched on,” he said.
“The quality of our first half was absolutely not at the level we wanted in a decisive game like that. In the second half we did very well - we created at least 10 chances but again not only did we not take our chances, but on top of that we gave them a third goal in a situation that was absolutely unbelievable.
“In the end we got punished for our mistakes.” – Sapa-AFP