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Thursday, 21 April 2011
ARSENAL 1-1 LIVERPOOL MATCH REPORT
Not so long ago this fixture would be one where you would have gave Liverpool little chance of coming away with anything, but in recent times under Kenny Dalglish there has been a renewed belief in the team, especially after that great win against FA Cup finalists Manchester City last Sunday. With Andy Carroll opening his goal scoring account as a Red, Liverpool would go into this clash with confidence high. Arsenal desperate for a win to keep their hopes of winning the League alive would make this a very tough game for Liverpool as our record is poor away to Arsenal, never having beat them at the Emirates.
Kenny seems to like to keep a settled team which is in stark contrast to the days of Rafa. This has not been easy to do for Kenny as he has been hit by so many injuries, but after such a good performance against Manchester City last Monday and with no new injury worries Kenny was able to select an unchanged side. A tremendous vote of confidence for young John Flanagan keeping his place in the team against such a potent attack as Arsenal. To be fair Kenny is running out of options as his squad dwindles with injuries. Having to bring in youngsters to the first team maybe sooner than he would like but as he often states he has faith in their ability to step up to the plate.
The game kicked off with Arsenal setting the tone with an early chance when Diaby headed narrowly wide from a Fabregas free kick. Liverpool's defence would have to be strong to keep Arsenal at bay. But Liverpool had claims for a penalty next when Spearing went down in the box under a challenge from Djourou, but referee Mariner saw nothing wrong.
On 12 minutes a Walcott effort was spilled by Reina which allowed Van Persie to flash the ball across goal which Flanagan intervened heading clear. Arsenal were dominating possession and Liverpool were lucky not to concede when Koscielny header against Reina's crossbar from a corner.
Liverpool were dealt another injury blow on 20 minutes when Aurelio had to go off with a hamstring injury. 17 year old Robinson replaced him at left back Fabregas then hit a shot low into the hoardings as Liverpool tried to re-organise.
Skrtel and Flanagan picked up soft bookings as the pressure mounted. Eboue had a shot deflected to safety as Liverpool managed to hold out to half-time.
Suarez had a good run and shot just wide at the start of the second half. But then Liverpool were dealt another defensive injury blow as Carragher was knocked unconscious after a clash of heads with team mate Flanagan, Kyrgiakos replaced him as Liverpool had to re-organise for a second time.
Suarez had a shot well saved by Szcesny as he dived to his left, he again went close as he twisted past a defender before forcing Szcesny to beat the ball away.
Reina had to be at his best as he prevented Van Persie twice from scoring. The first from a header which was heading to his bottom corner, then he brilliantly palmed away when one on one. Suarez shot high and wide from an acute angle after good work down the Liverpool right.
As the game headed into stoppage time the fourth official held up an additional 8 minutes to be played on his board, the extended overtime mainly due to Carragher's injury. Arsenal were bouyed by this added time and pressed hard for the goal to surely win the match. Liverpool's defence had been brilliant all day long but in the 96th minute despair for Liverpool when the superb Spearing felled Fabregas in the box which referee Mariner had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Van Persie kept his nerve to score from the spot and give what seemed like a vital win to Arsenal. With overtime just about up Liverpool went for one last attack when Lucas was tripped on the edge of the Arsenal penalty box, the Liverpool players looked for a penalty but referee Mariner got the decision right giving a free kick just outside the area.
Suarez hit what seemed like Liverpool's last chance into the Arsenal defensive wall, the ball looped into the air towards Lucas who, with his back to goal tried to shield the ball as it dropped only to be barged from behind by Eboue, Lucas hit the ground and once again referee Mariner pointed to the spot. It was an amazing finish with Kuyt stepping up for the last kick of the game. Kuyt kept his cool scoring and giving Liverpool a deserved point.
Wenger showed his obvious frustration as he confronted Dalglish who discarded the Frenchman in typical Dalglish fashion.
This was such a gritty performance from Liverpool against an Arsenal side chasing for the title. The Liverpool players showed so much determination it makes you proud. Dalglish is getting everything out of his players as this performance showed. With so many experienced players out and having to deal with another couple of injuries during this match makes it all the more impressive. True we didn't threaten too often but Dalglish knows the teams abilities and limitations. Special mentions to Reina who made some great saves to keep us in the match, and to Jay Spearing who was superb covering every blade of grass. Young Flanagan was again tremendous at right back against such a dangerous attack, also 17 year old Robinson was thrown on replacing Aurelio and defended brilliantly against the pacey Wallcott. For the team to comeback from a despairing last minute penalty shows the desire and character of this team. To win 4 point out of the last 2 fixtures is good going and hopefully we can continue the good form at home to Birmingham next week.
Man Of The Match - Spearing - he really is impressing with every game, his workrate is superb and he never gave the Arsenal midfield time as he constantly snapped at their ankles.