DÃ©jÃ vu occurred in this second part of the three part trilogy, as a 1-1 draw provided a serious dent in Arsenal‘s title hopes.
The Reds made 8 changes, even giving a debut to French youngster Damien Plessis. Peter Crouch came in for leading goal scorer Fernando Torres. Liverpool obviously looking to rest players for the European Showdown at the European Fortress Anfield.
The game started at a hectic pace, with both teams having to revert to unfavoured direct styles. The first shot of the game came very early in the 4th minute when Peter Crouch smashed a 40 yard shot towards Almunia’s top left hand corner , only for the Spaniard to tip the ball over the bar with an athletic save. On 17 minutes, Peter Crouch, who was a nuisance to the Arsenal back four, played in an inch-perfect pass for Norwegian John Arne Riise who blazed the ball harmlessly over the bar with his undoubtedly weaker right foot.
The game became very like a chess match, with both teams playing on the counter attack. On 31 minutes the best chance of the half came for Liverpool. Brazilian Playmaker Lucas Leiva responded to Yossi Benayoun’s overlap by placing a measured pass into his path only for the Israeli to drag his shot inches wide of the post.
It should have been 1-0 to the home side on 35 minutes when Arsenal broke on a rapid counter attack, Mathieu Flamini and Theo Walcott surged towards Reina’s goal only for Captain for the day Jamie Carragher to halt the wingers run, the ball then broke unexpectedly to in coming Nicklas Bendtner who put the ball straight into Reina’s grateful hands.
Soon after, Arsenal broke once again, this time through Emmanuel Eboue, who managed to get to the by-line and whip in a dangerous cross to the unusually quite Cesc Fabregas only for Slovakian Martin Skrtel to snuff out any danger.
Three minutes before the interval, Reina opted for route one, Crouch got on the end of the long ball with a knock down to the in rushing Benayoun, he then hooked the ball back to Crouch, who smashed the ball in Almunia’s bottom right hand corner, leaving the Spaniard with no chance whatsoever.
The half time whistle went, the Liverpool fans in a jubilant mood after seeing their team outplay a much more stronger Arsenal team , who still believed they were in the title race, only time will tell but this match would not have helped at all .
Arsenal started the second half brightly, with their first real chance coming after 53 minutes. French debutant Armand Traore used his blistering pace to outrun former arsenal winger Jermaine Pennant. Traore knocked the ball away too quickly for pennant and the winger brought the Frenchman down. From the resulting free kick Arsenal scored through Danish striker Nicklas Bendtner. Fabregas whipped in a ball of the highest quality and Reina could do nothing but stare as the ball was fumbled into the back of the net.
1-1 , Game On. Wenger was as animated as ever , on the touchline screaming, cursing, pointing and encouraging his team to attack, attack and attack some more. Liverpool knew a draw would be a good result but for Arsenal this was a must win game. The Arsenal boss sent on leading goalscorer Emmanuel Adebayor to bolster his attack, sacrificing full back Justin Hoyte.
Arsenal piled the pressure on , French Midfielder Mathieu Flamini produced a stinging angled shot which Reina held on to well.
As Arsenal continued to press forward, Liverpool held on superbly. Arsenal were lucky not to be caught out when substitute Ukrainian Andriy Voronin’s lob nearly caught out Almunia, only for the ball to loop to far over the bar.
The Liverpool fans were loudest with ten minutes to go, when their new hero Fernando Torres was introduced, but it was a bit too late for him to make an impact.
Alexander Hleb was also introduced and had the chance to be a hero in the dying minutes when the ball rolled to him inside the area, everything seemed to slow down, Liverpool fans were fearing the worst as he swung his left boot ferociously at the ball, only for him to miss kick the ball. The look on the face of Arsene Wenger was not a happy look and he planted his head in his hands as the full time whistle went.
Liverpool had got the point they wanted and deserved for their grit and determination to shut out Arsenal. The first two results of this three part trilogy had ended 1-1. Now for the third and final part, both teams only hope of silverware and for the winner, the chance to salvage their season.
Match report by Jake Abbey
|Youngster Damien Plessis made his debut and impressed in the holding midfield role.|
BBC Sport Report
Arsenal‘s Premier League title hopes took another huge blow as they were held at home by Liverpool. The Gunners made a lethargic start and fell behind to Peter Crouch’s powerful finish into the bottom corner.
Nicklas Bendtner levelled when he met a Cesc Fabregas free-kick and powered his header past Pepe Reina.
Arsenal pushed forward looking for a winner but Liverpool substitute Andrei Voronin wasted two good chances to snatch it for the visitors late on.
The draw is enough for Arsene Wenger’s side to move second in the table and go above Chelsea on goal difference.
But with Manchester United still five points clear, and with a game in hand, the Gunners’ title ambitions look all but over.
Arsenal desperately needed a win here if they were to retain any realistic hopes of overhauling United at the top and Liverpool were never likely to roll over.
As expected, both sides made several changes from the teams that drew 1-1 here on Wednesday in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final.
Only three of the Liverpool side that started that match began here – goalkeeper Reina, Jamie Carragher and Martin Skrtel.
Arsenal‘s side seemed stronger on paper but they were lethargic in the early stages and it was the visitors who had the better chances.
Crouch, playing up front on his own, tested Gunners goalkeeper Manuel Almunia from 30 yards with a dipping shot.
Crouch was involved again when Liverpool next came forward, slipping the ball on to John Arne Riise, who lost his marker Justin Hoyte but blasted his shot over the bar when clean through.
That failed to rouse Arsenal from their slumbers, however, and they were fortunate to escape again when Yossi Benayoun dragged his shot wide from inside the box.
The Gunners only began to come forward before half-time and Bendtner should have done better when the ball fell for him after Jamie Carragher tackled Theo Walcott, the Dane shooting weakly at Reina.
Emmanuel Eboue was also wasteful when he ran clear and his poor first touch was followed by a cross that was cleared by Steve Finnan.
But just as Arsenal were enjoying their best spell of the match, they found themselves behind.
Crouch met Reina’s goalkick, picked up the ball from Benayoun and drove forward to the edge of the area before drilling a low shot into the bottom corner.
That left the Gunners 45 minutes to turn things round and they made a decent start.
Kolo Toure headed wide from a Cesc Fabregas corner, before the Spaniard conjured up the equaliser from another set-piece.
Fabregas curled in a free-kick and, with Reina stationary on his line, Bendtner rose to power home from close range.
But the expected Arsenal onslaught in the final half hour did not materialise and it was Liverpool who had the best chances to take all three points.
Crouch set up Voronin but he screwed his shot well wide and the Ukraine striker made an even bigger hash of his next chance, rounding Almunia but falling over as he tried to shoot from a tight angle.
Arsenal had plenty of possession but few clear openings and their best opportunity was wasted when Alex Hleb failed to control the ball when well placed in front of goal.
Arsenal: Almunia, Justin Hoyte (Adebayor 57), Gallas, Toure, Traore (Clichy 72), Eboue, Fabregas, Silva, Flamini (Hleb 81), Bendtner, Walcott.
Subs Not Used: Lehmann, Song Billong.
Goals: Bendtner 54.
Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Skrtel, Arbeloa, Plessis, Pennant (Gerrard 66), Benayoun (Voronin 75), Lucas, Riise, Crouch (Torres 80).
Subs Not Used: Itandje, Hyypia.
Booked: Riise, Pennant.
Goals: Crouch 42.
Referee: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire)