Torres 49, Benayoun 56, Torres 72, Benayoun 90.
Arshavin 36, 67, 70, 90.
Another “4 x 4” in the space of seven days. However, it’s not been a particularly enjoyable ride. Although we are guzzling goals, the emissions at the other end have proved damaging to the point that we may have stalled in yet another competition?
There are so many ways at looking at this game. A great advert for the neutrals? Top class finishing from both sides, particularly Torres and Arsharvin? Lost opportunities – both teams, and in particular us as we dominated for so long, must be wondering how they did not walk off with three points? Both will point to poor defending and the lack of an ability to close the game down. Perhaps it’s this lack of consistency, or the vulnerability both teams show from time to time to let others exploit them, that explains why we sit second and forth respectively and not higher?
It is difficult to be harsh on Liverpool tonight. We battered Arsenal for long periods and gave it everything. The commitment and desire to win was first class. Perhaps, dare I say this, to the point were we got too carried away when at times cool heads and degree of caution were called for? Arsharvin’s individuality and eye for the main chance notwithstanding it could be argued that we didn’t help ourselves. Errors leading to the first three Arsenal goals led to us committing too many forward in order to chase the game which ultimately lead to the forth. Arsenal had far fewer chances and considerably less of the play but this was no “smash a grab” raid as we were all to willing to lend them the sledgehammer?
We began well with good efforts with Benayoun and Arbeloa going close only to be denied by Fabianski’s brave keeping. Shots from Mascherano and Torres (twice) and then a header from Agger gave an indication of how intense the pressure was. However, out of all the sides that have played at Anfield over the last few years Arsenal seem to have the least fear? Many would have crumbled in that atmosphere however, they bided there time (the footballing equivalent of Ali’s “dope on a rope”?) and struck.
Mascherano normally so reliable had his pocket picked on the edge of the area by Nasri and Febregas. The two of them worked it to Arsharvin who fired home off the underside of the cross bar. Offside? I’m not so sure however, at the break and even at 1-0 we had enough of the play not to feel worried. It was simply a time for clear heads and patience.
The second half saw us bearing down on Arsenal, penning them inside their own half as wave after wave of red tried to punch a hole through. Torres’ goal, a firm header past a flailing Fabianski from Kuyt’s cross and then Benayoun, bravely at the far post after another good cross from the Dutchman and pressing work from Torres, saw us deservedly take the lead.
Perhaps now was the time to close the game down, play percentages and be more selective in our attempts to secure a third? However, whatever tactics you choose you can’t legislate for mistakes. Arbeloa was dispossessed on the edge of the area and before Reina could even take up his position the ball had been speared home by Arsharvin. Before we could even take stock he had his hat trick capitalising or more hesitancy, this time from Aurelio.
Now the match reached that stage where everything that had been talked about in the way of tactics and strategy was swept aside as both sides simply slugged it out. Torres equalised for the second time by picking the ball up from Riera and tempting, and flirting with, Silvestre on the edge of the area until he had space and time to fire into the corner. He then, from a back header, had what seemed a sure fire forth dashed but Gibbs popped up on the line to clear. As we pressed and pressed the sucker punch came. Walcott, evoking memories of his long Champions League break for victory here just over a year ago, sprinted clear. This time it was Arsharvin who kept up with him to thrash his pass past Reina. Benayoun gave us what could prove to be a vital point at the death by clipping home after a scramble in the area.
So, very nice. Very enjoyable. A classic even? Isn’t English football and Premiership wonderful? I’ll leave all that nonsense to Sky and the rest. I guess the question is where do we go from here? The answer is simple because it’s the same as before. We keep trying to win and hope that the Mancs slip up. Nothing has really changed except our chances are a bit slimmer. We need belief, passion and commitment and on tonight’s evidence that is still there. All we want now is a bit of luck, fate to deal us something tasty? Fingers crossed!
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Agger, Aurelio, Alonso, Mascherano, Benayoun, Kuyt (El Zhar 86), Riera (Babel 74), Torres.
Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Dossena, Lucas, Ngog, Skrtel.
Arsenal: Fabianski, Sagna, Toure, Silvestre, Gibbs, Arshavin, Song, Fabregas, Denilson (Walcott 65), Nasri, Bendtner (Diaby 90).
Subs Not Used: Mannone, Eduardo, Vela, Ramsey, Eboue.