The following article refers to an older game – for the upcoming Arsenal-Liverpool game, click here.
The climax to this game was dramatic, equal parts glorious and sickening, and ultimately, a split between euphoria and despondent tears.
Well, that’s what you get for following both sides of the game.
Liverpool go through the Champions League semi-finals AGAIN, setting up a semi-final clash with Chelsea (AGAIN), while Arsenal will now have to contend with the improvements they’ve made this season as opposed to any realistic chance of silverware.
The way this game went, it didn’t deserve to be decided by a refereeing error. The ref had caught Kuyt’s dive in the first half and should have seen this time around that Babel hadn’t been pulled back or pushed down to the ground, he stumbled while jostling for control and position.
Coming as it did just seconds after Arsenal’s 2nd goal, the penalty overshadowed the most brilliant piece of skill from Theo Walcott as the Arsenal striker slalomed his way straight through Liverpool’s half before cutting it across for Adebayor to finish off. Shambolic defending by Liverpool there, starting way up near Arsenal’s box with Gerrard taking a wild swing in the air and missing the ball completely.
Watching Liverpool’s build up to their 4th goal, I wonder why Fabregas didn’t bring Babel down and take the red card. It would have been the hotheaded thing to do, but losing 2-3 is better than losing 2-4, and at that time it wasn’t as if Arsenal had any real chance of getting back into the game (Rafa knew as much when the penalty went in – Arsenal were broken then and there), so he wouldn’t have missed the semi-finals.
Oh well. Credit where credit is due – Liverpool really turned it on after conceding the first goal and kept the pressure going right till the end except for a few blips (a great chance that fell to Adebayor and then that Walcott slalom), controlled the game more or less. On the balance of the two legs, if you consider the refereeing decisions, Arsenal may claim that they deserved to go through but in the end it’s Liverpool going to their umpteenth Champions League final.
A rematch with Chelsea awaits, and Liverpool fans will have one eye at Moscow. Arsenal on the other hand must pick themselves up for Sunday’s game with Manchester United – and plan again for next season.
2nd Leg Preview
Twice Rafa has taken Liverpool to the Emirates and twice he’s come out more satisfied, with his team getting the better result in both cases. Away draws are nothing to write about but against Arsenal and at this stage of the season, if Liverpool fans were offered this last week they’d have taken it.
Expect Wenger to throw everything his team has – minus the dead tea lady – at Liverpool and while the stakes and hype point to a fantastic exhibition of football one can’t help but wonder if Liverpool can dominate Arsenal again but with greater control than they did at the Emirates?
Fabregas has talked about getting away from the pressure of the home fans, and it boils down to what was said the other day – that when the going gets tough the fans need to get behind their team. There will be enough time for pointing fingers at the end of the season. So far, Arsenal have improved from the last two seasons and that in itself is worth celebrating.
If it were a league game, I’d give Arsenal a shot. As it stands, big cup ties are Rafa’s thing, and barring a miracle, Liverpool will win the tie, if not the 2nd leg itself.
First Leg: Arsenal 1-1 Liverpool – Gunners facing end to a promising season
Before this game Wenger had talked about the most challenging moment of his career – a statement that was meant to motivate his players more than make any sense (it doesn’t – the most challenging moment was the 05/06 season finale – a mad dash to 4th spot and the Champions League final which Arsenal lost) – but the press picked up the soundbite and shaped their own story around it.
There’s no question about it though – Arsenal were the better side and if they had made more of their possession / chances and if that penalty had been given, they would won easily. As things stand, the Gunners have lost the opening gambit in this 3-part battle. Wenger’s aim was to win without conceding – Arsenal did neither. Liverpool’s aim was to avoid defeat and score if possible. They did both. The return leg will contain goals, no doubt, but who would you back to score 2 goals at Anfield on 8th April – Liverpool or Arsenal?
The game also has an impact on the weekend Premier League tie – Liverpool have tested Arsenal at their best and have came away with a draw, and even though they were under the cosh for most of the game the result will give them a much-needed confidence boost to go on and get a result in the next game. Liverpool don’t need to win the game, a draw will suit them as well. Arsenal on the other hand need to win to stay in the title race (in case United lose away to Boro) and slipping further behind United and Chelsea, coupled with losing the quarter-final at Anfield next Tuesday, will definitely end Arsenal’s season.
Still, overall the season has been a massive improvement and the club is going in the right direction (I’m talking about Arsenal but the same applies to Liverpool). It’s not over yet…