Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Reds Held By Gunners

Showdown Of The Midfield Maestros

English Premiership

LIVERPOOL 1 - 1 Arsenal

LIV - Gerrard (7 min);
ARS - Fabregas (80min);

10 minutes was all Liverpool needed to hold on for a probably undeserved victory over rivals, Arsenal but man of the moment, Cesch Fabregas, broke the hearts of the Anfield faithfuls after scoring a rather cheeky goal in the 80th minute to level things up after Steven Gerrard fired Liverpool ahead with a powerful driven freekick early in the game.

The 400th appearance from the Liverpool skipper was a milestone on it's own and to score on it makes it even more special for the born and bred Scouser.

But another midfield maestro from Spain took centre stage of the show with his 10th goal of the season in all competition, a wonderful statistic that doesn't really flatter the quality of this young talismanic midfielder, who has been the heartbeat of Arsenal since the departure of Thierry Henry.

The Arsenal playmaker has been in scintillating form this season and looked beyond his age, performing with apparent maturity.

While Gerrard has been caught in the cross fire of fans and the media after several disappointing performances and hasn't been at his best for both Liverpool and England for quite some time.

But he silenced his critics with a decent performance in the middle of the park but Rafa Benitez seemed to be unable to shrug off the recent criticisms of his rotation policy and the handling of players. Well, that's the sort of thing you get when things ain't going right.

Both teams met at Anfield with mixed fortunes in their previous games. Arsenal were in a marvelous run of 12 straight victories in the Premiership while thrashing Slavia Prague 7-0 in the Champions League match.

While Liverpool, although still unbeaten in the Premiership, was utterly embarrassed in this year's Champions League with no wins on hand and a shameful 2-1 defeat away to Besiktas.

Putting on his tinkering hat, Rafa Benitez welcomed back Fernando Torres and also Xabi Alonso, whose presence was very much missed. Rafa started with a supposed 3 pronged attack of Kuyt, Voronin and Torres and the trio of Gerrard, Mascherano and Alonso anchoring the midfield.

Arsenal played safe as well, playing Emmanuel Adebayor on his own upfront and five across midfield.

Game was played in a frenetic pace from the start with Liverpool players closing down Arsenal really well. But that was probably the downfall for the Reds as they their physical conditions went down and exhaustion was apparent after the 70th minute mark.

Rafa gambled with Alonso and Torres but it backfired some way or the other. Both players were withdrawn, with Torres suffering from an ineffective performance upfront on his own and was even substituted by Peter Crouch before half time.

But without the goalscoring threat of Torres, Liverpool still struck and as if it was an inevitable event that Gerrard would take this opportunity to score. Dirk Kuyt managed to break the Arsenal wall and the skipper fired in low and hard, giving Almunia absolutely no chance.

But with the injury of Alonso, Liverpool seemingly lost control of the midfield and with the likes of Theo Walcott and Nicklas Bendtner coming on, the away side gained the upper hand and had a couple of near misses which could've punished Liverpool.

But due to some poor finishing, the score remained the same until Cesc Fabregas weaved his magic, latching onto Alex Hleb's pass and cheekily toe-poked it past a stranded Pepe Reina, who would've been disappointed with the goal.

A fair result all round and you could probably say Arsenal deserved the point more than Liverpool as they showed more intent and fared better. Despite leading 1-0 in the first half, the home side resorted to long punts upfield and Torres was struggling by himself.

While Arsenal's movement and passing constantly threatened Liverpool and barely did Carragher and his defence hung on.

An entertaining game with points shared between the two English giants. What effect does it have on the league is still yet to be seen but it certainly gives ManYoo a boost for their upcoming game against the Gunners themselves.

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