Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Arshavin Quadruple Dents Reds' Title Hope

Liverpool 4 (Torres 49, 72; Benayoun 56, 90)
Arsenal 4 (Arshavin 36, 67, 70, 90)

From Russia, with love. Arshavin’s amazing 4 goal show at Anfield was enough to stop Liverpool in its track even as the Reds continue to mount a late title surge. The breath-taking 4-4 draw last night quashed some hopes of Liverpool bringing back the number 19 back to Anfield.

Even though the draw was enough to send Liverpool top of the league through superior goal differences against Man Utd, it must’ve seen like 2 points dropped rather than 1 gained.

Sir Alex and Guus Hiddink must’ve been rubbing their hands in glee as they saw Arsenal dismantle Liverpool’s defence. And then Arsenal being dismantled. In a see-saw game of football, a second consecutive 4-4 draw was definitely not for the faint-hearted.

Despite dominating the game and having lion’s share of possession, Liverpool were unable to see Arsenal off and in a game where we knew the Reds had to be at their best, defensive frailties were glaring and a few lapse of concentration here and there cost Liverpool dear.

Still without the injured skipper, Steven Gerrard, Liverpool looked more likely to score early in the first half with Fernando Torres causing loads of trouble for Kolo Toure while Yossi Benayoun tested Lukas Fabianski on a couple of occasions.

Yet it took one lapse of concentration and suddenly, Liverpool fell behind.

Javier Mascherano dallied on the ball just outside his own penalty box and was robbed by Arsenal skipper, Cesc Fabregas. In turn, the Spanish playmaker made a wonderful run before crossing it in for Andrei Arshavin, who was waiting near the penalty spot, to score.

Liverpool came back strongly after half time and you could sense the momentum was with the home side. With the Kop End in high spirit, Liverpool pressed forward and two quickfire goals stunned the away fans from London.

Torres and Benayoun, two heroes from the recent resurgence of Liverpool, hauled the team back in contention and an air of belief was evident. But it was a pity they were unable to build on that.

Arshavin once again punished Liverpool with a sweet right footed strike which left Pepe Reina diving despairingly. He dispossessed Alvaro Arbeloa, once again in a dangerous position, before curling it beyond the reaches of Reina.

The Russian playmaker then did Man Utd and Chelsea a massive favour when he scored his first ever hat trick for his new club. Fabio Aurelio’s poor clearance was all that was needed for Arshavin to pounce.

But you just knew Liverpool wouldn’t lie down.

Fernando Torres struck again when he received the ball just inside the penalty area and with Kolo Toure not marking him tight enough, he had the space to turn and fire home. Despite having a hand on the ball, Fabianski was unable to keep it out.

And the Kop were in full voice again. Belief, once again, came flooding back to the faithfuls. Yet it was not the last twist in the story. They were to find themselves in shock and disbelief once again.

From a Liverpool corner, Arsenal cleared their lines and with only two men in defence, the Gunners were able to launch a counter-attack which Liverpool had no chance stopping. At the end of the move was again, Andrei Arshavin.

And like a typical Liverpool script, they equalised right on the 90th minute mark through the brilliant Yossi Benayoun. The Israeli midfielder pounced on a poor clearance and volley home to bring minimal cheer to the crowd.

Yet majority of the fans knew that it wasn’t good enough. A draw was a serious dent in Liverpool’s title bid and with Man Utd having 2 games in hand with just about 6 games to go, their hopes might be fading away.

Despite missing out on Emmanuel Adebayor and Robin van Persie, Arsenal, through their famed intricate passing and swift interplays, were able to expose a haphazard Liverpool defence while the absence of Gael Clichy and William Gallas was evident.

Liverpool, though showed great character once again, couldn’t rely on it to win them every game. Xabi Alonso mentioned in a pre-match talk about how they needed to be in top form and making as little mistakes as possible to win it but as we’ve seen last night, they fell short and the usually reliable players were culprits.

Last night’s draw will give Man Utd a huge boost of confidence even as they entertain Portsmouth tonight at Old Trafford. A win for the Red Devils tonight will surely bring them a step closer to securing their 18th title – equaling Liverpool’s long-standing record.

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