The boss is right. That was a penalty. The Liverpool supporters saw it, the Arsenal supporters saw it, the commentators saw it, both teams saw it… In fact, everyone saw it except Kuyt and his childhood buddy, the ref. Actually, the ref did see it. Which is what leads me to believe that Hleb’s reputation as a diver kept Arsenal from getting the call.
Still, that’s no excuse for a 1-1 draw.
On a night when Arsenal dominated every aspect of the game for 89 minutes, for just 1 minute Flamini missed his tackle and Liverpool scored. 1 shot. 1 goal.
The night started well, Liverpool had just signaled their intent at 22 seconds when Gerrard hoofed the ball to Babel but time and again Arsenal dealt with the direct play. The defense was winning possession, the midfield was moving the ball, the forwards were keeping possession, van Persie had a shot on goal; textbook Arsenal.
More great ball movement led to a corner. Then, through some slight of foot between van Persie and Cesc, the ball was played in to Adebayor who nodded the ball home. He was so wide open and the ball so perfectly placed it looked as if it was a training ground exercise.
I was still excited by the goal and urging the boys on when a few seconds of lapsed concentration and BOOM. Steven Gerrard makes a run at the Arsenal defense, puts in a cross, and Clichy puts the ball in the net. The team went limp.
Wenger put it this way:
We were unsettled by their equaliser. We’d scored the first goal and, when we conceded, I felt straight away that was like a thunderstorm going through the team. We lost composure and nerves a little bit.
Arsenal really did look shell shocked immediately after the goal and I felt certain that Liverpool would grab another goal and put the season to bed. But Arsenal called on those infamous “resources” and held onto the match before closing out the first half.
Now, I want to know what’s going on in the locker room at half time. Because this is the second game that Arsenal have been down at the half only to come out and terrorize the opposition. I bet he just reminds them of how fucking good they are and how they need to be proud of what they’ve done this season. We’ll never really know, but that’s what I’m imagining.
Theo replaced van Persie, who had injured his thigh again (AAAAAAAGGGGGGHHH), and Arsenal suddenly looked like they were playing some new formation. I honestly don’t know what was going on but I saw Hleb in the middle more, Flamini up front a lot, and Walcott blazing around the pitch taking shots and creating havoc.
Then Hleb got dragged down. Which we’re not going to belabor.
The key moment of the match, though, was when Liverpool brought on a 5th defender: Bendtner. It was a brilliant move by Benitez to sub Bendtner for Eboue as his goal line save of Fabregas’ shot was the moment of the night.
After that, Arsenal threatened but Liverpool hung on. Credit to them for defending well.
And that’s it, that’s the story. Liverpool came to do a job and they did it. Sure, the ref missed the call, but honestly? Arsenal conceded a sloppy goal — which is why here in America we say “defense wins championships.”
It was a great match though and I fully expect Arsenal to win the return trip on Tuesday.
I’m sure there will be a metric assload of stories today, can’t wait to read what the pundits have to say. Let me guess “Venomous Wenger Vents On Vink!”
We’ll know more about van Persie sometime today or tomorrow, until then.