Arsenal beat Liverpool to regain ground on rivals
Arsenal 1-0 Liverpool
Liverpool travelled to the Emirates boasting an impressive defensive record from recent weeks. Their rearguard had not conceded a goal since the last-gasp equaliser conjured up by Stoke at the Britannia Stadium.
Meanwhile Arsenal had succumbed to their title rivals in the Premier League in successive weeks: suffering a home humiliation at the hands of Manchester United followed by a demoralising defeat away to Chelsea last Sunday.
Thus it came as no surprise to see the home side gingerly grow into their midweek clash with Liverpool. For the visitors, Mascherano and Lucas roamed around the middle of the park, launching into tackles and breaking up any neat moves from Arsenal.
The first real chance came from a set piece.
An Arsenal corner saw William Gallas rise highest in the box, but the French defender nodded the ball harmlessly over the crossbar much to the relief of the perplexed Pepe Reina.
There was little supply from the flanks for either side. The play was congested and bitty which ultimately made for poor viewing. However it suited Liverpool’s agenda in the context of the match as a whole as they were content to restrict and compress the normally expansive Gunners.
Bendtner had the best opportunity of the half. He unearthed some time and space just inside the opposition’s box but blasted his effort into the stands.
Maxi Rodriguez, who was experiencing his first taste of Arsenal in the Premier League, endured a subdued half. The Argentine had several openings on the left wing but failed to take advantage and appears to need more time to adjust to his new surroundings in the English top flight.
When the sides resumed after the break it was with a renewed vigour. Both sides pushed further forward on the offensive with the game becoming more open as a result.
Lucas had the first opportunity of the second half. He marched into the Arsenal box but wasted his chance to test the suspect Almunia.
Moments later a wonderfully weighted ball from Steven Gerrard unleashed David N’Gog. The young French striker seemed certain to score but Gallas recovered lost ground and made a goal-saving tackle.
It would be Liverpool’s final clear cut chance.
Arsenal pressed and Rosicky could have scored twice in the space of ten minutes. He was set loose in the box but a heavy touch allowed the ball to trickle into the arms of Reina. This was followed by a low driven shot by the midfielder which was comfortably gathered by Reina.
Arsenal’s persistence paid off with fifteen minutes remaining.
It was the first time in the match that a good delivery was pumped into the box. Rosicky provided the cross as Abou Diaby evaded the attentions of the Liverpool defence and sent a thumping header past Reina.
It prompted Wenger to throw on Sagna for the final period of the match. The away side piled forward, looking to take advantage of Arsenal’s fragile nature.
Ryan Babel sent an emphatic shot crashing off the crossbar, albeit thanks to a timely palm from Almunia. Liverpool’s new signing Rodriguez swivelled on a loose ball in the penalty area but it was straight at the Arsenal ‘keeper.
The pressure continued until the final seconds of the game. Kuyt earned a free kick ten yards from Arsenal’s penalty area. Gerrard fired it goalwards, but it was diverted wide by the raised arm of Cesc Fabregas.
Howard Webb ignored the protestations of the Liverpool players, calling time on the match. The result meant Arsenal closed the gap to six points behind Chelsea while Liverpool remain stationary in fourth.
Arsenal: Almunia; Eboue, Gallas, Vermaelen, Clichy; Diaby, Song, Fabregas; Arshavin, Bendtner, Nasri. Subs: Fabianski, Sagna, Rosicky, Walcott, Denilson, Traore, Campbell.
Liverpool: Reina; Carragher, Skrtel, Agger, Insua; Mascherano, Lucas; Kuyt, Gerrard, Maxi Rodriguez; Ngog. Subs: Cavalieri, Riera, Aurelio, Babel, Spearing, Degen, Kelly.