Sunday, October 28, 2007

Liverpool vs. Arsenal: Match Review

Match Preview

Liverpool brought an end to Arsenal's 12 game winning streak today, as the Gunners came back from a 1-0 deficit to draw 1-1. Cesc Fabregas' eightieth minute equalizer was enough to put Arsenal back on top of the Premier League with a game in hand, but next Saturday's fixture with Manchester United could see them fall off the top.

Rafa Benitez started with a rather unorthodox lineup which included three forwards, with the not yet match-fit Fernando Torres in the center and Dirk Kuyt and Andriy Voronin on the wings.

Arsene Wenger also played a different lineup than usual with Emmanuel Adebayor alone up front and Alex Hleb in the hole behind the Togo striker.

Liverpool: Jose Reina; Jamie Carragher, Steve Finnan, Sami Hyypia; Xabi Alonso, Steven Gerrard, Javier Mascherano, John Arne Riise; Dirk Kuyt, Andriy voronin, Fernando Torres

Arsenal: Manuel Almunia; Bacary Sagna, William Gallas, Kolo Toure, Gael Clichy; Emmanuel Eboue, Cesc Fabregas, Mathieu Flamini, Tomas Rosicky; Alex Hleb; Emmanuel Adebayor

The game started with a clash between Cesc Fabregas and Andriy Voronin, resulting in the Ukraine striker picking up a yellow card. Arsenal's free kick was poor though, ending up at the feet of Xabi Alonso who raced towards Arsenal's 18-yard box. Once again, Fabregas was involved, tripping up his fellow Spaniard and resulting in a Steven Gerrard free kick.

The brilliant English midfielder made no mistakes in putting the ball through a hole in the Arsenal wall to put Liverpool ahead in the seventh minute.

Arsene Wenger will not be pleased by the way in which the goal was scored though. Arsenal's wall disintegrated in the face of Gerrard's free kick, leaving Manuel Almunia completely helpless to stop what should have been a blocked shot.

The Arsenal squad showed strength though, and kept fighting, showing great mental strength to muster up a dominating performance which left us unlucky not to have taken away a full three points.

Arsenal pressured Liverpool throughout the first half, with Liverpool lucky to make it into the second still ahead by a goal.

In the seventeenth minute Pepe Reina rushed out to deny Adebayor after a clever move down the right flank.

Liverpool still had their own chances as well, as Steven Gerrard saw a pacy long range shot palmed over the bar spectacularly by Manuel Almunia. The Spanish keeper played wonderfully today making 6 saves, a few of which were of the quality to be expected from a first-choice Arsenal goalkeeper. While I was strongly against using him ahead of Jens Lehmann, I am finally starting to gain some faith.

Arsenal had one more good chance before the end of the first half, as a deflected shot from Emmanuel Adebayor looked as though it would sneak past a wrong-footed Reina. Unfortunately for the Gunners, the keeper recovered just in time to stop the lanky front man from scoring.

Fernando Torres was taken off at the beginning of the second half, as the young striker had looked short of match-fitness all night, following his return from injury. In came Peter Crouch, who, along with Gerrard, seemed like the only one who might be capable of scoring an insurance goal for the Merseysiders.

The tall English striker nearly fired Liverpool further ahead soon after the break, but once again a fine save from Manuel Almunia kept Arsenal in the running.

It was Arsenal who then came close to going ahead. Emmanuel Eboue (who had once again been almost invisible for most of the game) took a shot which ricocheted off Reina's right post. The rebound fell to Fabregas who miraculously fired off target in front of an open goal.

In the sixty-fourth minute Arsenal supporters suffered a scare as a Xabi Alonso header flew goalwards following another Gerrard free kick. Fortunately, the ball had little power behind it, and Kolo Toure managed to clear it off the line.

Liverpool had another chance ten minutes later as Dirk Kuyt saw his dipping volley go just inches above the crossbar.

It was getting late in the game, but Arsenal continued to play passionately, and Cesc Fabregas made up for his earlier miss by netting in the eightieth minute. A picture-perfect pass from Alex Hleb reached the 20 year-old midfielder in the box and he stretched to toe-poke the ball past the onrushing Reina, saving Arsenal a well-deserved point.

The goal gave Arsenal hope, and the Gunners came close to claiming a full three points when Fabregas hit the same post that Eboue had hit earlier in the half. Once again, the rebound fell to an Arsenal player, but this time substitute Nicklas Bendtner made a disgraceful miss.

Liverpool had one final chance to answer, as Peter Crouch sent countryman Steven Gerrard into the box. A last-minute tackle from William Gallas saved what would almost surely have been a goal though, and the game ended in a 1-1 draw.

Arsenal fans will be a bit disappointed that they weren't able to leave Anfield with the full three points after hitting the post twice. However, the way we played was enough to put us back on top of the Premiership and should give our squad some confidence before hosting an injury-stricken Manchester United next weekend.