Hyypia 30, Torres 69, Gerrard 86 pen, Babel 90
Diaby 13, Adebayor 84.
There aren’t many good sport films, mainly because they fail to reflect the reality of most events. For example imagine a film where the “heroes” start badly. They are so all at sea that you simply cannot see a way back. However, against the odds they gain a foothold then the top men haul them back into the game. However, the opposition aren’t done yet and provide what seems to be a dastardly, winning sting in the tale. With the minutes running out it looks all over however, as befitting a Hollywood script, they get a bit of luck and then triumphantly win through. Off into sunset and roll credits.
This is clearly the clichéd romantic notion of someone who doesn’t have a grip on reality? No sports event that would pan out like that in real life, would it?
What a scrap. It’s not often you see the fortune swing so much from one side to the other and then back again. Had we played for another fifteen minutes would Arsenal have gone through? It was a game that made the previous two ties look like prissy, pussy footing around. As said in the previous blog, something had to give tonight and boy it did as both sides exchanged metaphorical blows. “Super Sunday” my a*** this was “Titanic Tuesday” late result, ITV 1 Sky 0!
It’s very easy to forget about it in the euphoria of the victory but the reality is that the old bugger nearly ****ed it up again! What an earth prompted Rafa to tinker with a side that since the FA Cup exit has thrived on stable line up? Bringing in Peter Crouch and reverting to four, four, two is one thing. However why not add to this and, just to make things doubly controversial, shunt your best player out to the “wilderness” of the left wing thus depriving the top scorer of his support and partner in crime. Ryan Babel hasn’t been playing that well however, surely we could have found a better replacement (Benayoun? Riise? Kewell although I assume he’s injured?) rather than disrupt the vital Gerrard Torres Axis? Still the score on the board will no doubt give Rafa the justification he needs?
The start of the game was a complete disaster. Arsenal had us on the ropes from the start. It was a depressing repeat of the October match. Crisp, quick, sharp passing making us look like punch drunk, cumbersome idiots. Adebayor gave us a sight of what was to come by getting into goal scoring positions from good moves on three occasions. Thankfully he was offside for each one. The goal was no surprise. We simply could not get near Arsenal who pinged the ball around casually trying to find an opening. Frustration eventually got the better of us, space was found and Diaby blasted home at Reina’s unguarded near post.
No one could have complained about the goal. We were like rabbits dazzled by headlights. However, just as the body’s vital signs were starting to fade, Sami Hyypia miraculously found and applied the defibrillator!
These days if you scratch beneath the surface of Arsenal’s slick play there are always opportunities to be taken. Gerrard swung over a corner, Sami managed to evade Senderos who went to sleep for a fraction of a second to net in off the post with a pin point header. An unbelievable goal for Arsenal to concede after all their good work. After that we looked visibly more confident and the game was more even for the rest of the half.
In the previous two games Arsenal have come out and had the better of the second half. Even though we were undeservedly level, there was no reason to suspect that this would be any different, especially as Rafa seemed intent on persevering with the new line up which had produced nothing of significance from the main protagonists, Gerarrd, Torres and Crouch.
Slowly however we began to get a finger hold. After 53mintues Torres found Aurelio whose shot deflected wide off Crouch. The midfield problem, Arsenal had this area of the pitch all to themselves in the first half, was slowly addressed. This was the prelude to the turnaround. Reina’s long clearance was flicked on by Crouch to Torres. Senderos knows that you can’t give Torres time or space in the box but he did just that inexplicably allowing him to turn, and crash the ball into the roof of the net.
Arsenals response was immediate bringing on Van Persie and Walcott. Rafa needed to make changes but before he could do this Arsenal missed a vital chance Hleb slid in Adebayor who only had Reina to beat. He missed horribly. Only after that did Babel come on for Crouch to restore the more familiar line up.
Then came what many must have thought was the killer blow. Gerarrd missed the ball in his own area but no one could have imagined what was about to unfold. Walcott’s run went on for ever. Liverpool players, five of them I think, all had goes at stopping him legally and illegally however he ran on and on and squared to Adebayer who made amends for his earlier howler. Seven minutes to go and that was surely that.
Before I could even start thinking about trying to cheering myself up and more to the point Arsenal think about killing the game, we were given a lifeline. Babel and Toure clashed in the area and the Dutchman went flying. It’s ironic that in the tie already dogged by one rash penalty decision that we should get another one, was last nights decision any more “nailed on” that last weeks? No doubt the usual gripes about penalties at Liverpool in front of The Kop will be dusted down but such is the way of things and one can only have sympathy for Arsenal. Gerarrd made sure and Babel admonished Rafa for dropping him in the nicest possible way by outpacing a tired Febregas and firing home to make sure.
On Monday I was talking with our CEO’s Secretary. Her husband is an Arsenal fan. She said he was fretting that their season would come crashing down in the space of two weeks. I pointed out that it could be ours that ends tonight. “Why do you put yourselves through this?” she asked The answer to that question is easy because although there is disappointment, frustration and despair, and God knows we have had plenty of that this season, you keep hanging on in there because there is always the chance that every so often you will experience the thrill of a game like last nights. That makes everything worthwhile!
Liverpool: Reina, Carragher, Skrtel, Hyypia, Aurelio, Gerrard, Alonso, Mascherano, Kuyt, Torres, Crouch. Subs: Itandje, Riise, Voronin, Benayoun, Arbeloa, Babel, Lucas.
Arsenal: Almunia, Toure, Gallas, Senderos, Clichy, Eboue, Flamini, Fabregas, Diaby, Hleb, Adebayor. Subs: Lehmann, Van Persie, Song Billong, Silva, Bendtner, Justin Hoyte, Walcott.