Thursday’s Papers: Post-Arsenal Reaction

Dirk Kuyt’s equaliser to cancel out Emmanuel Adebayor’s opener for Arsenal gave Liverpool a vital away goal and ultimately held the Gunners to a draw in their own back yard going into the second leg of this Champions League quarter-final tie at Anfield next Tuesday.

Jason Burt of The Independent sums up Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger’s fuming reaction to their second half penalty claim.

Arsène Wenger did not conceal his anger towards referee Pieter Vink last night accusing the Dutch official of having missed a “blatant penalty right under his eyes” after Alexander Hleb was challenged by Dirk Kuyt. The Arsenal manager said: “He [Vink] was five yards away from Kuyt, by coincidence, and didn’t give the penalty. I haven’t spoken to the referee. It’s difficult to understand, frankly.”

Sam Wallace, also of The Independent sums up the situation as it stands.

Advantage Rafael Benitez ‘“ another classic from the old master of the Champions League smash and grab. Last night his team made the dark art of European football look bliss-fully simple as they took Arsène Wenger’s season to the brink of extinction.

Wallace goes on to claim that the referee, Pieter Vink, made a mistake not giving a penalty for Kut’s foul on Hleb, but points out that Kuyt, along with Steven Gerrard had great games.

But it would do no justice to Benitez’s side to say that they rode their luck because in Steven Gerrard and, to a lesser extent Kuyt, they had the game’s outstanding performers. The Liverpool captain’s jinking run down the left to create his team’s goal was the moment of outstanding quality in the match. It trumped anything conjured by Cesc Fabregas. If only Gerrard could play like this when he pulls on an England shirt.

The Daily Mail agrees that it’s advantage Liverpool and writer Matt Lawton looks ahead to the second leg where Anfield will again stage a fantastic European night, and again become a fortress.

As their contemporaries at Chelsea can tell them [Arsenal], Anfield intimidates as much as Liverpool inspire on these big European nights. The place, rather like the team, undergoes a remarkable transformation.

The deafening roar of the Kop at the moment You’ll Never Walk Alone draws to a conclusion, creating a sound that no other stadium in Europe can ever quite match.

After the game, Reds boss Rafael Benitez admitted that Kuyt’s away goal could prove a decisive goal in this tie.

He said, “I think it’s crucial to score an away goal in Europe,” said Benitez. “Arsenal is a team that can also score away from home but at least we now have this option in our hands for the second leg.

“It was an important goal for us and the understanding between Torres and Gerrard is really good. Gerrard created the chance and Kuyt was there and it was really important for us.”

Media match reports, photos and watch the goals here