Benitez was right
By David Prentice - Liverpool Echo
Dirk Kuyt is well used to put downs. So often
have the words “much maligned” preceded his name this season
that the likeable Dutchman could have been forgiven for
thinking he’d been handed a new nickname.
But there was nothing to malign last night.
In fact, there were different phrases preceding his name,
especially from his admiring manager, after a colossal
“Unbelievable,” declared Rafa Benitez, before deciding that
didn’t do justice to the Dutchman’s efforts and added.
And this from a manager who doesn’t dispense praise lightly.
Kuyt’s marathon man mimicry – together with a touch of class
from his skipper – has given Liverpool a firm foothold on
their third Champions League semi-final in succession.
As Arsenal proved in the previous round against the holders,
a goalless home draw is not a scoreline to cause
consternation for the second leg.
A scoring draw, however, shifts the parameters completely.
And the away goal Liverpool snatched in the 25th minute
means they don’t need to chase the game next Tuesday.
Arsenal do, and Liverpool will be able to employ the
suffocating, supremely effective counter-attacking tactics
which proved so productive at the Emirates Stadium last
The first 25 minutes of the second half was as absorbing as
European football gets.
Arsenal attacked relentlessly, shuttling flashy intricate
patterns at breathtaking speed in and around the Liverpool
But the irresistible forces met four immovable objects as
Liverpool defended magnificently.
Sometimes it was frantic, sometimes it was last ditch – but
it was always enormously effective.
And adding his efforts to the defensive duties was Kuyt.
Even that didn’t stop people still trying to run him down,
Arsene Wenger described him as a “second Liverpool
right-back in the second half” before trying to deprive him
of his goal.
“I don’t know who scored,” he said. “Who got the touch? Was
It was undeniably Kuyt’s goal, as he barged between two
defenders to ensure Steven Gerrard’s classy sleight of foot
was not in vain.
And if he got a slice of luck when lenient referee Pieter
Vink ignored a left handed tug which persuaded Aleksandr
Hleb to fall, he earned it.
After trying to support his skipper and Fernando Torres in
the first half, in the second half he was asked to help
quell the threat of the precocious Theo Walcott ,whose
introduction at half-time for the injured Robin Van Persie
gave Liverpool an even pacier headache to deal with.
Of course, this was far from a one-man show. Gerrard had an
in and out evening, but the moment when he was in form was a
potentially tie-changing moment.
He dribbled and drove past two Arsenal defenders then
crossed left-footed – the 21st time this season he has
directly created a goal for a team-mate.
If you want some idea of how astonishing that record is, his
closest rival in the Liverpool squad has set up 10 . . . a
certain hard working Dutchman.
Four of Kuyt’s assists have come since his switch to right
midfield, a move initially designed to take him out of the
firing line during a barren spell in front of goal, but a
move which is looking more and more like a long term career
This quarter final tie is still delicately poised, but the
momentum is now undoubtedly with Liverpool.
London Transport Police did their best to take the gloss off
the evening. There were still fans queuing outside Holloway
Tube Station at 11 o’clock.
But it hardly mattered. Everything comes to he who waits.
Ask Dirk Kuyt.
Benitez’s recipe for Euro
success eludes Wenger
Comment by Nick Smith - Liverpool Daily Post
Arsene Wenger called it his moment of
truth – but one inescapable fact keeps coming back to haunt
him and is set to do so again at Anfield on Tuesday.
That his teams just aren’t cut out for these kinds of
challenges – certainly not in the same way Rafael Benitez
moulds his European troops when they set out to conquer the
Whether it’s guile, graft, know-how, even a bit of luck,
whatever you need on your side, Liverpool always seem able
to find them and under Benitez you always expect them to.
But the most frustrating thing for Wenger is that even when
Liverpool fail to follow orders to keep it tight and not
concede early, even when the Arsenal manager delivers the
first psychological blow – it’s still not good enough.
George Gillett’s seat should have been the only place where
wide open spaces were appearing amongst Liverpool’s
Arsenal tore that game-plan apart with a stirring spell of
pressure that ended with Emmanuel Adebayor being allowed so
much room to head in, the visiting defence must have been
setting up their marking back at Highbury.
Even the magic touch he has in Europe can’t work miracles
for Benitez and find a formula that defends set-pieces.
But then the key elements came to the surface. Steven
Gerrard epitomised his team’s ability to raise their game at
the crucial moment in this competition with the driving run
that enabled Dirk Kuyt to slide in and cancel out the lead
and, even at that embryonic stage, make Anfield an even more
It’s an intimidating enough experience for the visiting side
in a second leg even when Liverpool aren’t armed with an
away goal – and Wenger knows it.
He usually shrugs off pre-match hype with that knowing smile
but his European trophy drought is no laughing matter and
the reason why he uncharacteristically chose to publicly
underline the importance of last night.
And above all, it shows that he was always worried about his
team’s prospects in this tie and rightly so too.
Rafael Benitez is understandably and unashamedly envious of
the Frenchman’s record on the domestic front.
But in Europe Benitez seems to have it all sussed out as he
proved again last night. Arsenal scored and Wenger stood up
to raise his arms in triumph; when the equaliser came,
Benitez sprang from his seat just as quickly but raised his
hands only to send out more instructions.
A telling difference in approach and attitude that sums up
the shortcomings in Europe of both Wenger and his suddenly
Which only adds weight to the increasing feeling that they
will be there for the taking on Tuesday – simply because
they have yet to prove they have what it takes on this
Yes, they did get to a final in 2006 but would have blown
that if it weren’t for Riquelme’s casual swing at a penalty
in the last minute of their semi-final at Villarreal.
And when they reached Paris, their fingertips brushed the
trophy before it was snatched from their grasp late on.
Nothing now suggests they are any wiser and more galvanised
by the experience. And the hysterical behaviour of their
captain William Gallas at Birmingham last month is proof
they haven’t matured.
True champions and great sides – and Wenger has moulded at
least two during his reign – don’t do what Arsenal have been
doing of late. Gallas’s hysterics at St Andrews. The FA Cup
surrender to Manchester United. And not only struggling, but
ultimately failing, to beat Birmingham, Middlesbrough and
Wenger was even tactically outfoxed by Avram Grant in the
midst of all that.
And just when they took the initiative in this tie, they
promptly conceded that catastrophic away goal.
The burden of failure is weighing heavily on them at home
Liverpool don’t have that, which explains why there was a
renewed freshness and freedom in their play after they made
Arsenal, by contrast, gradually ran out of ideas, were nervy
in possession and resorted to long-ball tactics as foreign
to their manager as his youth policy.
Yet, how can you write off a side that goes to the San Siro
and dethrones the European champions?
Well, back then in the previous round, AC Milan went into
the home leg without an away goal, a vulnerability Liverpool
haven’t left themselves open to for next week.
And Liverpool know from their own experience in the round of
16 that the San Siro is certainly not Anfield.
It doesn’t intimidate or inspire (depending on which camp
you’re in) in the same way and that’s why Arsenal are
guaranteed there will be no repeat of the 6-3 embarrassment
they inflicted in their last cup meeting.
In fact, it’s likely to be like nothing they have
experienced before, exactly the same circumstances that did
for Chelsea twice – and could well do again depending on
next week’s events.
But before anyone looks too far ahead, Wenger still has 90
minutes left of his moment of truth.
However, with Liverpool adapting so well to this competition
so effortlessly again, chances are he won’t be able to
handle the truth.
done it again?
By Joseph Caron Dawe - Setanta Sports
It would seem that Liverpool have once
again managed to turn out the kind of performance that suits
European evenings perfectly.
For much of their Champions League quarter final first leg
meeting with Arsenal they looked just slightly outdone by
their opponents, but the sign of their mettle was their
ability to come away with a draw and an away goal.
Due in large part to their best player on the evening Steven
Gerrard, Rafa Benitez has again managed to get out of his
players a performance which failed to dazzle but got a
specified job done, and done to perfection.
This is not a criticism of Liverpool’s style of play, more a
praise of their ability to adapt their game to suit a
scenario and come out of it smelling of roses.
Such an advantage heading into the second leg – to be played
at home – is a situation any team in the last eight would
have taken before the commencement of these ties, and
Liverpool appear to have set themselves perfectly for
progression to the semi-finals.
It would be ill-conceived to write Arsenal off just yet, but
can Arsene Wenger’s side really go to Anfield and come away
with a win? It will be an intriguing pitting of wits between
Benitez and his French counterpart as they both set about
trying to win out this tie.
Arsenal were wrong
claim a penalty
Liverpool Daily Post
Liverpool’s Dirk Kuyt insisted the referee
was right not to award a penalty against him in tonight’s
1-1 Champions League draw with Arsenal.
Kuyt equalised for the visitors after Emmanuel Adebayor had
put Arsenal in front in the quarter-final first leg at
However, the Dutch striker was fortunate not to concede a
penalty in the second half when he appeared to pull back
Alexsandr Hleb inside the area.
“It’s just a split second you have to decide,” said Kuyt.
“I didn’t pull his shirt. It was never a penalty - but it
Speaking about the game, Kuyt added on Sky Sports 2: “We did
everything we could - we wanted to score and we did.
“After the goal, we came back in the game and had a few
other little chances. They have a great performance, and we
did everything we could.
“We have shown in European nights at Anfield we were really
good and we hope we can do the same next week and go through
to the semi-finals.”
goal could prove crucial
By Steve Hunter - LFC Official Website
Rafael Benitez believes Dirk Kuyt's away
goal against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium could turn out
to be so crucial ahead of next Tuesday's second leg
Kuyt became Liverpool's leading marksman in the Champions
League this season with his sixth European strike of the
campaign when he equalised Emanuel Adebayor's opener.
"I think it's crucial to score an away goal in Europe," said
Benitez. "Arsenal is a team that can also score away from
home but at least we now have this option in our hands for
the second leg.
"It was an important goal for us and the understanding
between Torres and Gerrard is really good. Gerrard created
the chance and Kuyt was there and it was really important
The Reds boss admitted he was pleased with the work ethic of
his team and said they did well to withstand great pressure
in the second half.
"I think the result is really good," said the boss. "It's
the Champions League and we were away from home in Europe.
"The team was working really, really hard against a good
team. We knew before they could have plenty of possession so
the question was for us to be well organised and play on the
counter attack. That was the plan and it was good.
"We were running a lot in the first half and in the second
we thought they would have plenty of possession. We needed
to change some players and we put on fresh legs in Benayoun,
Lucas and Voronin."
While disappointed with the goal his team conceded when
Adebayor scored from a free header, Benitez refused to point
a finger of blame at any individuals.
"I think it's difficult when you play against a good team,"
added Benitez. "The delivery was really good and Adebayor is
really good in the air, so at the end you can't control
"We knew they could also be dangerous from open play so we
were trying to control all the small details but you can't
Wenger: We should have
By Graeme Bailey - Sky Sports
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger could not hide his
disappointment after drawing with Liverpool in the first leg
of their UEFA Champions League semi-final.
The Gunners deservedly went ahead after 23 minutes through
Emmanuel Adebayor, but they could not hold as Dirk Kuyt
scrambled home an equaliser just moments later.
Arsenal were the better side throughout but they could not
find a way through which left Wenger frustrated.
"It is difficult to understand as we had a lot of possession
and a lot of chances and it is very difficult to accept that
we didn't win the game," Wenger told Sky Sports.
Wenger was also less than amused about his side being denied
what appeared a blatant penalty in the second-half when Kuyt
looked to pull Alexander Hleb to the floor.
"We were unlucky too, when they equalised I felt we were
unlucky and were unlucky on the big decision of the referee
on the penalty and in a game like that it is difficult to
take it but we have to swallow it.
"That is what is most disappointing because sometimes the
referee is in a bad position, but he was five yards away
from Kuyt and in fairness it was a 100 per cent penalty.
"We could have done better because we were caught on the
break when we were 1-0 up, but Steven Gerrard showed a touch
of class and you can always do better when you concede a
Arsenal now meet Liverpool again on Saturday in the Premier
League before the return leg of their Champions League clash
at Anfield next week.
"What is important is that we win the next one at the
Emitrates on Saturday and then find the resources to win at
Anfield and we can do that," he said.
"We want to win the game on Saturday because, of course, the
Championship is at stake and that will help us to get the
result at Anfield."
Robin van Persie was again forced off with injury and Wenger
admits he is a doubt for their next two games against
"It doesn't look too bad but we took him off for a
precaution but I still think he will be short for next game
and possibly the one after," he added.
claim Emirates draw
Arsenal were left frustrated as Liverpool
held on for what could to be a crucial 1-1 draw from the
first leg of their Champions League quarter-final clash
at Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners, who have seen their Barclays Premier League
title hopes fade following a run of just one win in six, had
taken an early lead through Emmanuel Adebayor.
However, the Reds, last season’s beaten finalists, hit back
quickly through Dirk Kuyt’s close-range effort after a fine
run from captain Steven Gerrard.
Arsenal dominated the second half and should have had a
penalty when Alexander Hleb was clearly tugged back by Kuyt.
However, Arsene Wenger’s men could not find a way past
Liverpool who will now fancy their chances of securing
another European Cup semi-final appearance when the two
sides meet again at Anfield next Tuesday night.
Despite the electric atmosphere, it was a cagey opening for
what was the 200th meeting of the sides, who will face off
once more in the Premier League on Saturday lunchtime.
After seven minutes, Adebayor raced onto a long through-ball
as Jose Reina dashed out of his goal.
The Liverpool goalkeeper missed his attempted clearance, but
was alert enough to recover ground and then block the
follow-up cross from the Togo frontman.
At the other end, Cesc Fabregas had to do some defending in
his own six-yard box to deny Sami Hyypia after he had stayed
up front following a corner.
On 21 minutes, the Liverpool defence was split by a fine
chipped pass from Mathieu Flamini.
Robin van Persie got ahead of the two centre-backs and into
the penalty area, but as the ball dropped, the Dutchman
could only fire a left-footed volley over the crossbar.
Reina then had to get down quickly to deny the Arsenal
striker, who sent in a low shot from the edge of the box.
From the resulting corner, after 22 minutes, the Gunners
took the lead.
Van Persie knocked the ball short to Fabregas before he
whipped it into the area, where Adebayor leapt highest to
nod his first goal since scoring in the defeat of AC Milan
at the San Siro.
However, Arsenal’s lead was short-lived as the visitors
grabbed what could yet prove to be a crucial away goal in
the 26th minute.
Gerrard powered into the left side of the penalty box,
charging past three defenders.
The Liverpool skipper kept his feet to send over a low
cross, which Kuyt bundled in ahead of full-back Gael Clichy.
The visitors were clearly lifted by their goal and enjoyed a
decent spell of possession as the half-hour mark passed.
However, despite plenty of action around both penalty areas,
neither side was able to find a penetrating pass.
Liverpool had a chance just after the restart, and Manuel
Almunia needed to get down quickly to smother Kuyt’s
Arsenal introduced England squad man Theo Walcott, to
replace van Persie, for the second half and the teenager
looked lively down the left as Hleb was given more freedom
in an advanced role.
Walcott picked up the ball and let fly from 25 yards, but
his shot was always going wide of Reina’s right-hand post.
Again both teams were not scared of going forwards, however
once more they lacked a decisive pass in the final third.
On 65 minutes, there was a double let-off for Liverpool when
Martin Skrtel blocked Emmanuel Eboue’s effort before Arsenal
had what looked a certain penalty turned down by the Dutch
Hleb weaved into the box, before he clearly had his shirt
tugged back by Kuyt. However, referee Pieter Vink was
unconvinced and signalled instead only for a corner.
Wenger sent on Nicklas Bendtner for the final 24 minutes,
replacing Eboue as Walcott moved out to the right and Hleb
to the left.
The Danish striker was soon in the thick of the action,
somehow managing to keep out Fabregas’ goalbound effort
while on the line – although he was flagged offside.
Arsenal continued to press in the closing stages, and in
stoppage time Fabregas dived in to meet Adebayor’s cross,
but his header lacked power and Reina comfortably collected.
Liverpool – with 10 men behind the ball for long spells –
held firm and take the upper hand into next week’s second
leg at Anfield.