Sorry, don’t have any graphics software on this laptop so no score graphic or pic from the game.
As it stands it’s definitely advantage Liverpool after Diry Kuyt’s equaliser made it necessary for us to score in the second leg. It was a game that Arsenal dominated as Liverpool, expectedly, played a very restrained game and after their goal pretty much played to protect the 1-1.
We started well and had some chances in the first 20-odd minutes, both of them falling to Robin van Persie. Firstly he put Flamini’s long aerial pass over the bar (it was a difficult enough opportunity, in fairness) then forced Reina into making a good save with a shot from outside the box. The goal came on 23 minutes, a short corner saw van Persie swing one in and Adebayor’s towering header put us ahead.
Sadly the lead didn’t last any more than 3 minutes. The ball fell to Gerrard who burst into the box, past Kolo Toure and his low cross was met by Dirk Kuyt. I’m not quite sure how he got there ahead of Clichy but he did.
The second half began with Theo Walcott coming on for Robin van Persie – a thigh injury reported and Arsene said his withdrawal was ‘precautionary’. Fingers crossed it’s nothing serious. We pressed Liverpool back without too much penetration. They know how to organise themselves and how to defend and again maybe we were a bit guilty of being too intricate instead of being more direct, especially with Bendtner and Adebayor on the pitch.
That said we should have had a penalty when Kuty tugged down Hleb after a mazy run. The ugly Dutchman says it wasn’t a penalty but even the Mugsmasher via text said “Stonewall”. Arsenal can rightly feel aggrieved at that one. Then the Bendtner incident when he blocked a goalbound Fabregas header. Accidental of course, and it seems the flag went up for offside before he’d even touched it, but it was clumsy stuff from the big Dane.
Theo Walcott had a shot from outside the area that flew wide and I’d like to see him starting wide right now. He’s still obviously raw but he seems more confident and offered much more than the ineffective Eboue. A crippled blob would offer more than Eboue. So 1-1 it finished and it’s advantage Liverpool for the second leg. Afterwards AW was rightly critical of the referee’s decision not to give the penalty, saying:
It was a blatant penalty under the eyes of the referee. I can understand if the referee is in a bad position but he was five yards away. It is very difficult to take.
Understandable sentiments but we can’t dwell on things like that. It was a shit decision but it’s over and done with and we’ve got the second leg to come. While the ball is certainly in Liverpool’s court it’s not the end of the world by any means. We’re more than capable of going there and scoring and although Liverpool have a great record at Anfield in Europe there’s no reason why we can’t go there and get the result we need.
We’ve scored at Anfield already this season and we had some rather good results in the cups there last season so they’ll be cautious. I suspect they’ll play pretty defensively as they do know how to defend a lead, and it is a lead, but there’s no reason to be too stressed today. We dominated Liverpool, particuarly in the second half, and as they’re going to approach Tuesday’s game in a similar fashion I think our pressure will tell in the end.
Anyway, we can’t even begin to think about that game until we get Saturday’s league game out of the way. Further thoughts from Arsene about last night here.
Finally, I just want to say a big hello to all the Arsenal fans I met in the King’s Head in Santa Monica. We seriously outnumbered the Liverpool fans and it was a pleasure to meet you all. Get back in there for the second leg and wear your lucky pants/hat/shorts/suspenders. It’ll make all the difference.