Tuesday, April 08, 2008

X-rated defending costs Arsenal dearly...

Arsenal and Liverpool fans must have been getting sick of the sight of each other following so many close encounters between the two sides within the last seven days. The week's previous two matches had finished one apiece and so many neutrals among the viewing public must surely have been thinking that the game at Anfield on Tuesday night was going to be another stalemate snooze fest, but no, it was a lot better than that. As it turned out it was arguably the best game in the Champions League for quite some time.

It's not often that United fans will admit that watching either of these two teams represents more than a mild passing interest, because where excitement is concerned neither club is on the same page as far as we are concerned. However, the second leg of this quarter-final proved to be one of those rare occasions that lived up to the pre-match hype and star billing.

In the first 25 minutes Arsenal was awesome going forward, they were too strong and powerful and Liverpool looked in danger of being swamped. Adebayor and Diaby looked dangerous and threatening more or less every time they were on the ball. When the breakthrough came on 13 minutes it was a goal of the highest quality as Diaby powered into the Liverpool penalty area before hammering a low drive beyond Reina in front of the Kop. Wonderful, even for on looking United fans.

The Gunners opening salvo had served notice that they were very much up for it, whereas the Liverpool players didn't know what had hit them. It looked like Benitez and his team was going to be run over by Wenger's juggernaut.
In fairness, the Merseyside Reds did eventually improve as the half went on and they were given a crucial lifeline when Hyypia headed home an equaliser on 30 minutes - Senderos afforded the veteran Liverpool defender a criminal amount of space.

It is impossible to understate how important that equalising goal was in terms of this game and the rest of the season, it galvanised the home team, who went to on to deservedly win, but only after the visitors had shot themselves in the collective feet of their back four. Though there was no stopping Torres when he scored a wonder goal on 69 minutes, but again the hapless Senderos gave the Spanish striker too much room.

Arsenal, were not done though and substitute Walcott went on a mazy run leaving the desperate lunging challenges of a trio of Liverpool players in his wake before pulling the ball back for Adebayor to score another brilliant goal. At that point at 2-2 and with only a few minutes left to play the Gunners looked to be going through to the semi-final.

Low and behold just two minutes later, Liverpool won a penalty when Toure found himself on the wrong side of Babel, as the Dutch winger was wrestled to the ground. Gerrard, who had not been his usual threatening self in front of goal, scored the spot-kick.

As the game headed deep into injury time, Babel, gave the Gunners their last rites when he raced away to hammer the final nail in Arsenal's Champions League coffin.

It now remains to be seen what lies ahead in the remainder of the season for both clubs. Liverpool will rightly fancy knocking out Chelsea - but they wont fancy playing United or Barca in the final, but they know better than anyone else in this particular competition that in a one-off game anything can happen.

For Arsene Wenger, the Gunners collective defending at Anfield on Tuesday night left an awful lot to be desired and so it looks like the Arsenal manager has much to do in that department. This Arsenal team is very, very good going forward, but at the back they can be suspect.

2 comments:

  1. Yes, Senderos has always looked a frail defender, yet still Wenger seems to have enormous faith in him, brilliant game nonetheless.

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  2. Wenger could have easily left Toure and Gallas in as centre back's and played eboue in the right full back slot. This would have left the right wing position open for Theo Walcott who from the second he came on looked like the most dangerous player on the pitch.

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