After The Match 

            


Liverpool-Arsenal 3-6 (1-4)        9.1.07    Carling Cup 1/4 Final
Goals: Fowler (32), Gerrard (68), Hyypia (80)
Aliadiere (27), Baptista (40, 45, 60 & 84), Song (45)
Team: Dudek, Warnock, Peltier, Hyypia, Paletta, Gerrard, Guthrie, Gonzalez, Aurelio, Fowler, Bellamy
Subs: Garcia (Gonzalez 11), Alonso (Warnock 58),
Carragher (Garcia 75)
Not used: Reina, Crouch
Yellow: Song (31)
Red: None
Referee: M Atkinson
Attendance: 42,614
TEAM STATS
Shots on target: 9-7
Shots off target: 6-1
Blocked shots: 1-0
Possession: 48-52
Fouls conceded: 13-16
Corners: 9-3
Offsides: 5-0
Yellow: 0-1
Red:

 
0-0
HEADLINES "The first thing we must do
is say sorry
to our supporters."

     Rafael Benitez

1101: 'Our season is not over'
1101: True support or blind faith?
1001: Lose the fans and it's the end, Rafa
1001: Dudek saddened by cup disgrace
1001: It's time for us to get real
1001: Rafa takes wrong turn
1001: Benitez must take blame for Anfield shambles
1001: Rafa: I'm very sorry, Anfield
1001: Liverpool's worst home defeats
1001: Wenger: Reds 'gambled' on team
0901: Young Gunners hit Reds for six


JANUARY 11
'Our season is not over'

By Chris Bascombe - Liverpool Echo

Rafa Benitez today insisted Liverpool's season is alive and well, despite the record midweek Carling Cup defeat.

Pundits have suggested the cup loss all but ends the club's hopes of silverware for another year.

Benitez is well used to shrugging off criticism, having faced similarly testing weeks in each of his first two trophy laden campaigns in charge.

Defeats to Burnley in January 2005 and Crystal Palace in last year's Carling Cup prompted the same reaction, only for Benitez's team to claim silverware in May.

Now the manager is hoping for an emphatic response in forthcoming Premiership games as he seeks some much needed perspective.

"I am sure when we play teams like Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal later in the season, it can be a different result," said Benitez.

"If we have all our players available, and have no more bad luck with injuries, I know how strong our first team can be.

"People are talking about how strong Arsenal were in the last two games, so maybe this shows how well we've done to finish above them in the Premiership last season and to be third at this stage now.

"Last season I remember Manchester United losing early in the Champions League and losing to us in the FA Cup. People were saying things about them, but now they are at the top of the table. We are sure we can progress from here in a similar way, and remember we are still fighting in two competitions."


JANUARY 11
True support or blind faith?

Sports View with Echo Sports Editor John Thompson

It might be mischief, malice or even fair comment. But some pundits feel Liverpool fans are in a state of self-delusion.

They suggest there is a child-like worship of a manager who nobody dare criticise and is unchallenged. But there is also a sense these critics revel at times in seeing Liverpool fail.

So what is the truth?

We know Liverpool have slipped from their domestic pedestal. For 16 years a title once won regularly has not returned. And it still hurts expectant supporters.

Kenny Dalglish, who last delivered the prize, cracked under the strain of the manager's job a year after the Hillsborough Disaster. Graeme Souness underwent major heart surgery while in it. Gerrard Houllier collapsed and nearly died at Anfield.

So when 42,000 supporters turn up on a January night and see their side thrashed but stay to bellow their backing rather than tear up season tickets for the cameras, what does it signal? Maybe it is something more subtle than this alleged blind faith.

When Houllier was failing in his last season the phone-ins and letters were so hard-hitting it regularly rattled him. Yet at Anfield, there was no hint of rebellon, just a funereal atmosphere which became almost unbearable. He was duly dismissed.

Therefore, if Rafa Benitez mistakes the Kop's regular backing as a licence to fail, then he, like others, would be a fool. And he is not.

Whatever his mistakes - and undoubtedly his loyalty to Jerzy Dudek was misplaced - his record shows he's one of the most talented managers in the world. Titles with Valencia, the European Cup and FA Cup in his first seasons at Anfield, demolish any other suggestion.

That's why Reds' fans have stuck by him even when humiliated. And why such decent fair-minded support probably brings far more pressure than any chorus of boos.

It's not unconditional love. Of course Benitez is being judged on Merseyside. As are the Anfield board and every player every week. But it's easy to sneer at passionate yet patient supporters who appear obsequious to commentators who don't get the value of togetherness.

Of course, a club with Liverpool's culture has to constantly beware putting sentimentality before ruthlessness. Bill Shankly realised that when Watford defeated Liverpool in the FA Cup in 1969, axing Ron Yeats and Ian St John, his first, big signings years earlier. He learned painfully that however much he loved them, their time was up and the fans dreams' mattered more.

Many critics nowadays also suggest a `Scouse factor' in the Liverpool side is overly important to supporters. They're wrong.

Jamie Carragher is in the Liverpool team because he is a top class, lion-hearted footballer, not because he is from Bootle. Steven Gerrard would be a worshipped Anfield star whether born in Huyton or Helsingborg.

Of course, all fans have extra pride in local stars but it's cheap to suggest Liverpool's fans are parochial or narrow-minded about who plays for them. They've never been. The celebrated side which did the double in 1986 barely contained an Englishman, let alone a Liverpool lad.

But whatever pundits think, if anyone doubts managing Liverpool brings intense pressure and scrutiny from the Kop they should just ask Dalglish, Souness or Houllier.

Or even in time Rafael Benitez, whose efforts remain supported by fans who'll let him know in their own manner and time if they feel he is letting them down.


JANUARY 10
Lose the fans and it's the end, Rafa

TEAMtalk

TEAMtalk explains why Rafa Benitez's decision to field a weakened side against Arsenal in the Carling Cup could have some serious implications.

You're one of the top men in the firm and you want to make it an attractive a proposition as possible: the buyers are based in the Middle East and need to be convinced they are getting a top-notch company that is performing well now, and not just has the capability to do so some years down the line.

Of course, you also want them to pay top dollar (or even top Dubai dirham).

Just days before they are due to make an offer, there is a chance for your company to pull off a high-profile deal in one of the smaller markets: it's just you and some City rivals in with a shout.

Even better - you hear those same City rivals have give their top wheeler-dealers a post-Christmas break - what a stroke of luck!

So what do you do? It's a no-brainer: send in your best team and make sure they clinch the deal. It's not the biggest deal in the world, but it will grab headlines and make you, and the firm, look good...

Suffice to say, that Rafa Benitez will not be the top of many City headhunters' lists of desirable business heads today.

Instead, Benitez shot himself in the foot by taking a meaningless gamble, ended up being humiliated, and the Carling Cup result against Arsenal could even wipe a few million pounds off the offer.

Of course, Benitez' defenders will claim this is the usual build 'them-up-and-knock-them-down' mentality so beloved in British sport, that Liverpool's manager delivered them the Champions League and now, less than two years on, the knives are out over a defeat in a tournament which is very much fourth-rate.

There would be some merit in that argument were it not for the fact that Dubai International Capital (DIC) are probably less than a week away from completing due diligence and making an offer for the club.

The timing of the 6-3 defeat by Arsenal was absolutely appalling.

It has not only virtually ended Liverpool's hopes of any silverware this season - having been given a drubbing in the FA Cup by a full-strength Arsenal side at the weekend - but it could also have affected the value of the club to DIC.

One can imagine the talk in Dubai: "Wow, that's the worst defeat at Anfield for 77 years. Things must be bad. Do we really want to go ahead at that price? Let's take 10million off our offer."

It was bad timing for Liverpool, and awful for Benitez, who has had the spotlight shone firmly on the weaknesses of some of his signings.

League Cup defeats do not usually become a watershed in a manager's career. Unfortunately for Benitez, this one could prove the exception.

A perusal of Liverpool fans' message boards is enlightening in terms of what the supporters now think of their Spanish manager - at a rough estimate about eight to two are anti-Benitez, with many heavily critical about his transfer policy.

You don't have to be an expert in football to know that once you lose the fans, then the end is nigh.

Liverpool fans pride themselves on their loyalty, but it is to the team rather than the manager.

Benitez may not have lost the fans completely yet, but it is an uphill struggle and if Liverpool fail to qualify for the Champions League again, then it looks like the end of the road.


JANUARY 10
Dudek saddened by cup disgrace

By Andrew Scurr - Sky Sports

Jerzy Dudek admits he is devastated to have let in six goals against Arsenal in the Carling Cup.

A youthful Gunners side ran out 6-3 winners at Anfield on Tuesday, four days after firing three past Dudek in the FA Cup.

Nine goals conceded is not what Dudek wanted from his two cup outings, with his chances of further first-team opportunities at Liverpool likely to be at a minimum.

"I am devastated and disappointed. The last time I let in six goals I was very young," Dudek said.

"I wanted to take my opportunity in these two cup ties and build some confidence after six or seven months without much football, then you face a side like Arsenal. It is very difficult."

In three games, Dudek has conceded a third of Liverpool's season total and the Polish keeper is mystified as to the reasons behind the flood of goals.

"We hardly ever concede goals yet in two games we have conceded nine," he continued. "This is very strange, not just for the team but for me."

Dudek could well have played his last game for the club, with his contract due to expire in the summer and the imminent arrival of Italian youngster Daniele Padelli from Sampdoria.

The 34-year-old concedes his future at Liverpool looked bleak from the moment Jose Reina arrived at the start of last season.

Dudek added: "I do not expect anything in terms of more games because a goalkeeper was brought in after the Champions League final and the situation was clear for me.

"It is difficult for a goalkeeper like me to be second goalkeeper and to wait months for your chance.

"But it looks like I will be here for the rest of the season."


JANUARY 10
It's time for us to get real

By Chris Bascombe - Liverpool Echo

Rafa Benitez says Liverpool must learn the lessons of last night's Carling Cup humiliation, as he urged the club to match Arsenal's ambition in the recruitment of young talent.

Benitez, who apologised for the 6-3 defeat, is deeply frustrated his efforts to create an equally powerful reserve line-up has been thwarted by lack of funds.

But the boss insists he was right to stand by his team selection at Anfield, and argued the gulf in class was a result of Arsenal's ten years of careful planning and recruitment.

He says Liverpool's prospective new owners must take note if they want the club to match the Gunners.

"The first thing we must do is say sorry to our supporters. They were magnificent and deserved better," said Benitez.

"Secondly, although we made mistakes in the game my players worked hard and I must recognise this.

"But when you analyse the situation, the conclusion which worries me is Arsenal could pick nine reserves and score six goals at Anfield. We had seven players of the first team and could not win.

"There is a lesson in this for the whole of our club. If you want to compete at the top level, you must be able to spend a lot of money not only on your first team, but on the young players and reserves.

"Arsenal spent 4m on Diaby, 4m on Denilson, 8m on Walcott and Baptista is a 22m player.

"They have been working for ten years to build a strong squad, and we have been working for two years. My scout department has done an excellent job, but sometimes we go too slow as a club to make signings we need, and when we do there is not a lot of money.

"Today, for example, we are signing a young Italian keeper on loan with an option for later. We've also been working for many weeks to sign the young Scottish player James McCarthy.

"These are the deals we are doing because we want to build a squad of similar quality in the future, but without spending big money it's difficult.

"The money we sign is for the first team, and when you look at the quality of Reina, Sissoko, Alonso, Bellamy and Crouch it's clear all are worth more now than when we bought them."

Benitez has come under fire for his team selection in the wake of the latest cup exit, but he's standing firm.

"I used Momo Sissoko in the Carling Cup against Birmingham and lost him for four months," he said.

"Last night we believe we've lost Luis for the rest of the season and Gonzalez and Warnock were injured. Steven Gerrard has a dead leg and Xabi Alonso a tight hamstring.

"What is more important? The Premiership, the Champions League or the Carling Cup?

"If Arsenal can play nine reserves and score six at Anfield, people should be asking why is this. It's not because of one game, it's because of many reasons. I picked a team with seven players from the first team last night.

Do people expect me to play Finnan every week? He has had to play in every fixture this season. The players I used were good players."


JANUARY 10
Rafa takes wrong turn

By Mark Lawrenson - BBC Sport football expert

Liverpool conceded six goals at home for the first time in 77 years as Arsenal inflicted a humiliating 6-3 defeat on Rafael Benitez's side in the Carling Cup quarter-final.

The result sent shockwaves around Anfield, with Benitez coming in for fierce criticism for fielding an under-strength side that was outclassed by Arsenal's own shadow squad.

It completed a devastating double blow inflicted on Liverpool by Arsenal after Arsene Wenger's side sent them out of the FA Cup third round, also at Anfield, on Saturday.

What was behind Liverpool's crushing defeat? And what are the ramifications for Liverpool's season and under-fire boss Benitez?

Here, Mark Lawrenson delivers his verdict on Liverpool's Anfield nightmare.

RAFAEL BENITEZ'S TEAM SELECTION

Benitez got it wrong. Pure and simple. The team he put out was just too weak.

I would not have any problem resting one or two younger players but the more youngsters you play the more difficult it is to improve.

It is a similar situation to when England make six changes at half-time in a friendly. How can you bed in these players?

Liverpool lost in the FA Cup on Saturday, so they needed a good run in the Carling Cup.

I would have made the spine strong. I would have chosen two from Jamie Carragher, Sami Hyypia and Daniel Agger in central defence and paired Steven Gerrard and Xabi Alonso in midfield.

The two strikers, Robbie Fowler and Craig Bellamy, had plenty of experience but I might have had Dirk Kuyt on the bench as an insurance policy.

I would have blooded a couple of inexperienced players in wide areas but there were just too many in the side and that heaped even more pressure on the likes of Gerrard.

The consequences were dire. Keeper Jerzy Dudek and the central defenders Gabriel Paletta and Hyypia were all over the place.

Some of the defending had to be seen to be 'disbelieved' and they were cut apart by an Arsenal team that is fantastic on the counter-attack.

LIVERPOOL'S BIG PICTURE

I can understand Benitez looking down the road to matches against Chelsea, Barcelona and Manchester United - but I just do not buy into the theory of resting players with future games in mind.

I do not go with the suggestion that the players are tired. I just don't understand it.

If you are playing 60 games a season, it probably means you are playing in a successful team and when you are winning you are not tired.

I would not want the manager tapping me on the shoulder and telling me to take a rest when we are winning.

Liverpool had Jamie Carragher and Alonso stripped and ready on the bench and I reckon their mindset would have been: "I'm stripped. I might as well play."

The object was defeated anyway because they both ended up playing and Luis Garcia came on as a sub and then ended up going off with what looks like a serious injury.

If players are tired, why not give them more time off in the week? Tell them to go and put their feet up for a few days - they are super-fit anyway.

LIVERPOOL'S REACTION TO HUMILIATION

I do not think this will be a problem. They will field a different team at Watford on Saturday.

Pepe Reina will return in goal, Steve Finnan and John Arne Riise will be back, there will be an experienced central defensive pairing and Alonso and Gerrard will start in midfield. Kuyt will be back up front, so this will be a different team.

Disappointing as the result was, this is not a crisis. I still fully expect them to finish in the qualifying places to reach the Champions League and they still have the opportunity to have a run in Europe's elite competition this season.

All is not lost, despite a severe beating at the hands of Arsenal.

LIVERPOOL FANS' REACTION TO HUMILIATION

Liverpool fans were huffing and puffing as they left Anfield after this - seeing their side concede six goals will be a once-in-a-lifetime nightmare for them.

They won't be happy about going out of two cup competitions in the space of days. And don't tell them the Carling Cup doesn't mean much - it was good enough for Manchester United to win last season.

And they will wonder what they are protecting them for because their record against Manchester United, Chelsea - in league combat anyway - and Arsenal is awful anyway.

They will be disappointed, desperately, but I think they still have faith in Benitez.

I don't believe they accept the idea of players resting either.

PRESSURE MOUNTING ON RAFAEL BENITEZ?

Benitez is absolutely fine. He will be under no pressure and I can see what he is trying to do with the bigger picture at Liverpool.

My only problem with him is the resting of players and playing a weakened team. He has won the Champions League and the FA Cup after all.

The players coming through from the academy are not ready yet and he is now trying to buy young players from around the world.

This is what Arsene Wenger has been doing but he has been doing it for 10 years.

Benitez is trying to do that and has only just started but he also needs five or six real quality players to come in, hopefully something the proposed Dubai takeover will help to achieve.


JANUARY 10
Benitez must take
blame for Anfield shambles


By Tommy Smith - Liverpool Echo

Humiliation. Shambles. Embarrassment. Just three words that spring to mind after the debacle at Anfield last night.

It was a result against a bunch of Arsenal youngsters that underlined three major points:

1. Liverpool's squad still lacks the quality and strength in depth that has been lacking over the years.

2. The gulf between the Reds and their major rivals remains as wide as ever.

3. Rafa Benitez got his team selection hopelessly wrong in the light of their FA Cup exit.

Defeat four days ago against a very good Arsenal side was hard to take, but the Carling Cup hammering undermined the Reds' credibility as a soccer force.

Benitez has obviously been frustrated by lack of funds when it comes to trying to complete major deals, but this rotation system he adopts is simply crazy.

He should have fielded his strongest line-up, knowing as we all did that the Gunners would field a shadow team, in a bid to remain in a cup competition we could have won.

Now, there is just the Champions League to go for, and the prospect of facing Barcelona is a daunting one.

You live or die by your mistakes - and the Anfield boss must accept blame for the mauling his side received.

Jerzy Dudek, at fault with two of the goals on Saturday, was responsible for at least two more last night. Why was he playing?

Saying that he promised the keeper he would play in cup games is not good enough. His penalty save only papered over a few of the cracks.

Others, like Gabriel Paletta, looked out of their depth as the Gunners threatened to score with every attack.

But it wasn't just the result. It was the manner of defeat.

In what was a thoroughly entertaining game - I would have preferred a boring 0-0 and a win on penalties! - but the Arsenal second string gave the Reds a thorough lesson in passing, movement and ball control.

Their young stars looked head and shoulders better than ours. I have been frustrated with the likes of Luis Garcia over the years for the way in which he loses the ball so easily. He was guilty of that again on so many occasions before his injury. But he was not alone.

So many Liverpool passes went astray - and it wasn't just their younger players at fault.

Steven Gerrard, however, must be praised for his non-stop efforts to salvage some pride in defeat. He worked his socks off, ran everywhere, was always looking for the telling balls, and scored an absolute cracker.

Sadly, there were few other positives from last night, and the injuries simply added insult to injury!

Arsenal were superb. Liverpool were also rans. If this game proves a watershed for some of the players, and Benitez's approach to team selection, then so be it.

The Champions League is our only route to success now. But what will be the long term toll on confidence after the past four days?


JANUARY 10
Rafa: I'm very sorry, Anfield

ITV Football

Rafael Benitez could only hold his hands up and apologise to fans after Arsenal demolished Liverpool 6-3 at Anfield.

Benitez opted to leave out senior men Peter Crouch, Xabi Alonso, Jose Reina, Luis Garcia, Dirk Kuyt and Steve Finnan from his starting line-up in a Carling Cup tie Liverpool had to win to keep alive their most realistic chance of a trophy.

But the Reds boss defended his actions and also refused to blame second-choice goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek, who has now conceded nine goals in two games over four days against the Gunners.

He said: "We did use a lot of players from the first-team squad, but they also changed many players. The problem was conceding goals like we did.

"I do not put any blame on Jerzy Dudek, we win together and we lose together.

"We used senior players and young players, I do not point the finger at anyone. We tried to do our best, but we conceded goals and you cannot change the result now. All I can say is 'sorry' to our supporters."


JANUARY 10
Liverpool's worst home defeats

TEAMtalk

TEAMtalk has rummaged through the Anfield archives to find Liverpool's 10 worst home defeats, following Tuesday's 6-3 Carling Cup defeat.

Liverpool's 6-3 thrashing by Arsenal in Tuesday night's Carling Cup quarter-final was only the fourth time in the club's history the Reds have conceded six at Anfield - and the first time in 77 years.

Here TEAMtalk looks at Liverpool's 10 worst home humblings.

Liverpool 0 Sunderland 6 (First Division - April 19, 1930)

Liverpool 1 Manchester City 6 (First Division - October 26, 1929)

Liverpool 3 Aston Villa 6 (First Division - November 28, 1914)

Liverpool 3 Arsenal 6 (Carling Cup - January 9, 2007)

Liverpool 0 Everton 5 (First Division - October 3, 1914)

Liverpool 0 Manchester City 5 (First Division - March 26, 1937)

Liverpool 1 Derby 5 (FA Cup - March 2, 1898)

Liverpool 1 Newcastle 5 (First Division - December 14, 1907)

Liverpool 1 Wolves 5 (First Division - December 7, 1946)

Liverpool 1 Arsenal 5 (First Division - November 15, 1952)


JANUARY 10
Wenger: Reds 'gambled' on team

TEAMtalk

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger admitted he was surprised by the line-up Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez fielded in Wednesday's Carling Cup tie.

An amazing clash at Anfield saw the Gunners reach the semi-finals with an emphatic 6-3 victory.

Benitez opted to leave out senior men Peter Crouch, Xabi Alonso, Jose Reina, Luis Garcia, Dirk Kuyt and Steve Finnan from his starting line-up in a game Liverpool had to win to keep alive their last realistic chance a trophy this term.

And Wenger claimed that Liverpool would have fielded a full-strength side when this tie was postponed before Christmas due to fog.

Wenger said: "At the start, I was surprised by Liverpool's team. When we were here for the game that was fogged off, Liverpool named their normal side.

"But maybe because of the postponement and the heavy schedule after Christmas, they decided to rest some players.

"But they used senior men like Luis Garcia (who came off the bench) and (Mark) Gonzalez and they were both injured, so it is a real gamble."

Benitez defended his actions and also refused to blame second-choice goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek, who has now conceded nine goals in two games over four days against the Gunners.

He said: "We did use a lot of players from the first-team squad, but they also changed many players. The problem was conceding goals like we did.

"I do not put any blame on Jerzy Dudek, we win together and we lose together.

"We used senior players and young players, I do not point the finger at anyone. We tried to do our best, but we conceded goals and you cannot change the result now. All I can say is 'sorry' to our supporters."

Wenger hailed his young brigade after their stunning six-goal bonanza, in which Julio Baptista scored four to set up a semi-final showdown with Tottenham.

Wenger said: "I did not expect to score six goals but I am very pleased with the way we tackled the game, with the fluency of our game and the way we kept calm when Liverpool came back to 1-1.

"We just continued to go forward and play attacking football. These lads have worked very hard to integrate and to do what we want them to do.

"Sometimes the most important thing is not only to be talented but to transfer that into competitive games and they did that with the way we want to play football.

"But they have shown great mental strength. I am highly tempted to play many of them in the semi-final against Spurs. They have won in this competition at Everton and now at Liverpool, and they also won at West Brom."

He added: "They have earned the right maybe to play in the next round. It is a very satisfying night. I feel there is a continuity inside the club, and we feel we have worked very, very hard.

"The future of the club is very promising. We aim to keep these players together and keep the spirit right. Then we have a great chance for the future."


JANUARY 9
Young Gunners hit Reds for six

By Paul Higham - Sky Sports

Arsenal completed a cup double over Liverpool with an astonishing 6-3 Carling Cup victory at Anfield with Julio Baptista grabbing four goals.

Only two players from each side that started the FA Cup tie started in the Carling Cup battle, but the same team went through after The Gunners pulled out a barely believable result at Anfield.

Jeremie Aliadiere tormented the Liverpool defence and gave the visitors the lead against the run of play after 27 minutes, but Robbie Fowler levelled up five minutes later with a trademark classy finish.

Baptista curled in a free kick and slotted in a second either side of Alexandre Song bundling home after a Jerzy Dudek error to send Arsenal in 4-1 ahead at half time despite a largely even contest.

Baptista had a penalty saved by Dudek but completed his hat-trick soon after but a superb Steven Gerrard volley and a Sami Hyypia header gave Liverpool some hope by making it 5-3 with ten minutes left.

Baptista added a fourth though and an Arsenal sixth six minute from time after more poor Liverpool defending to make it a mind-boggling 6-3 - and Rafa Benitez's evening was made even worse as Mark Gonzalez and Luis Garcia looked to have picked up serious injuries.

The game started badly for Liverpool who lost Mark Gonzalez after just five minutes when he was stretchered off in agony after receiving lengthy treatment following what looked an innocuous challenge.

Liverpool started the better were bossing the game with Steven Gerrard's long-ranger well saved by Manuel Almunia while Craig Bellamy only just failed to fine Fowler with his cut back.

Arsenal took the lead though in simple fashion after 27 minutes as Aliadiere was allowed to run in onto a straight long ball from the back and he poked the ball home at the second attempt after Dudek partially blocked his first attempt.

The lead only lasted five minutes as Liverpool hit back with a sublime Fowler finish, with the veteran flicking in at the near post after Luis Garcia scuffed a miss-hit shot on the rebound from Fabio Aurelio's free kick.

Arsenal regained the lead five minutes before half time when Baptista, who had won a questionable free kick, curled his effort low over the wall and in with Dudek disappointingly not moving a muscle as he watched the ball ripple the back of the net.

The Gunners hit a third on 45 minutes thanks to a Dudek howler as the Polish keeper came but completely missed a corner and the ball hit Sami Hyypia's knee, and then Song's arm before bouncing over the line.

With six minutes of stoppage time due to the Gonzalez injury, there was still time for Arsenal to amazingly make it 4-1 on the stroke of half time.

Aliadiere looked offside when he was slipped in but the flag stayed down and he had time to square for Baptista to tap in his second and Arsenal's fourth in an amazing first half.

The second half started as the first had ended and Arsenal were awarded a 58th minute penalty after Hyypia had brought down Aliadiere inside the box. Dudek though produced a superb save to deny Baptista his hat-trick.

The big Brazilian would not be denied though, and just a minute later Baptista rifled a low shot past Dudek from 20 yards to incredibly make it 5-1 and have the Anfield crowd in complete bemusement.

The Kop did get a goal to celebrate and it came in some style as Gerrard fired a screamer past Almunia when he managed to control a high volley at the edge of the box which rocketed into the net.

More misery came for Benitez though on 74 minutes as Garcia followed Gonzalez in being stretchered off as he looked to have injured his knee.

Liverpool kept going though and Almunia did brilliantly to tip Gerrard's free kick onto the bar, with the follow up headed away for a corner.

The Reds did make it 5-3 with ten minutes left when Gabriel Paletta crossed for his fellow centre half Hyypia to power in a header and give the home crowd just a glimmer of hope.

All hope was snuffed out six minutes from time though as Aliadiere got the better of Paletta yet again before handing Baptista his fourth and Arsenal's sixth in an astonishing match.

There was still time for Liverpool to have a fourth goal chalked off for offside, while Almunia denied substitute Jamie Carragher with a fine tip-off as the curtain finally came down on a spell binding encounter.


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Thor Zakariassen