I suppose it’s not often that a top four game is welcomed in this way. Both sides, if they had the choice, would have probably not wanted to play it and I suspect both sets of fans would rather see different opposition today. It also presented both managers with tricky selection decisions especially with the second leg being only three days away?
Rafa reverted back to old ways and made eight changes with Carragher, Skrtel and Reina being the only survivors from Wednesday. The most notable addition us was Damien Plessis who was signed from Lyon last year. Arsenals involvement in the title race meant changes were only limited to five which presumably on paper at least made them favourites?
The game began lethargically which on the face of it was surprising. One certainly would have thought Arsenal would have shown more urgency, knowing they had to win this game. On both sides the new starters would also have a point prove. Such a player was Peter Crouch who roused proceedings from their slumbers with a dipping shot from about thirty yards. Crouch then turned provider putting through an excellent through ball to Risse who blazed over. Slowly our new line up began to find its feet Benayoun should have done much better than putting his cross shot well wide of the goal when there was no excuse for not getting it on target.
Arsenal finally woke up and came at us but chances for Bendtner and Febragas were snuffed out by Reina and Finnan the latter with a excellent tackle in the six yard area.
To say the goal was route one stuff is disservice to Peter Crouch. True he collected Reina’s long punt via Benayoun but he did well to cut inside and make the space. He also took his chance well, firing home a low, hard shot from the edge of the area.
A good if unexpected, outcome to the half. However as on Wednesday Arsenal began the second half well. Pressure was finally made to tell via yet another set piece. How many times have we been found wanting in this area this season? This time Fabragas delivered a long free kick into the six yard box for Bendtner who ran unaccompanied into the box. Worse still the ball should have been cleared before he got to it. Reina was criticised for being motionless but the finger should also be pointed at the outfield players.
Arsenal chasing the game bought some of their big guns but it was too little too late and probably kissed goodbye to their championship hopes. Voronin had a couple of chances to really make sure but missed horribly. As Kuyt wasn’t playing it was left to Lucas to “arm wrestle” an Arsenal player to the ground inside the penalty area. The referee didn’t give the spot kick which is surprising as Phil Dowd is from Staffordshire and Lucas is from Dourados!
A decent result. One point that, given the circumstances I didn’t expect us to get. For Arsenal it was more costly. What will the significance be for Tuesday? That remains to be seen but I don’t think today did us too much harm.
Arsenal: Almunia, Justin Hoyte (Adebayor 57), Gallas, Toure, Traore (Clichy 72), Eboue, Fabregas, Silva, Flamini (Hleb 81), Bendtner, Walcott.
Subs Not Used: Lehmann, Song Billong.
Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Skrtel, Arbeloa, Plessis, Pennant (Gerrard 66), Benayoun (Voronin 75), Lucas, Riise, Crouch (Torres 80).
Subs Not Used: Itandje, Hyypia.