After The Match 


Arsenal-Liverpool 1-1 (1-1)           2.4.08                            CL
Goals: Kuyt (26)          Adebayor (23)
Team: Reina, Aurelio, Hyypia, Skrtel, Carragher, Mascherano, Alonso, Babel, Gerrard, Kuyt, Torres
Subs: Benayoun (Babel 57), Lucas (Alonso 77), Voronin (Torres 86)
Not used: Itandje, Arbeloa, Riise, Crouch
Yellow: None
Red: None
Referee: Pieter Vink
Attendance: 68,041
Shots on target: 6-3
Shots off target: 7-1
Blocked shots: 2-0
Fouls conceded: 8-13
Corners: 6-3
Offsides: 4-1
Possession: 65.3-34.7
Yellow: 0-0
HEADLINES "...we wanted to score
and we did."
Dirk Kuyt

0304: Why Benitez was right about amazing Kuyt
0304: Benitez’s recipe for Euro success eludes...
0204: Has Rafa done it again?
0204: Kuyt: Arsenal were wrong to claim a penalty
0204: Rafa: Away goal could prove crucial
0204: Wenger: We should have won
0204: Reds claim Emirates draw

Why Benitez was right
about amazing Kuyt

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 performance.

“Unbelievable,” declared Rafa Benitez, before deciding that didn’t do justice to the Dutchman’s efforts and added. “Amazing.”

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 night.

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 penalty box.

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, mind.

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 Clichy?”

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 switch.

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 Continent.

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 personnel night.

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 daunting prospect.

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 faltering side.

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 stage.

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 Wigan.

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 and abroad.

Liverpool don’t have that, which explains why there was a renewed freshness and freedom in their play after they made it 1-1.

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.

Has Rafa 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.

Kuyt: Arsenal were wrong
to 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 Emirates Stadium.

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 was close.”

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.”

Rafa: Away 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
at Anfield.

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 for us."

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 everything.

"We knew they could also be dangerous from open play so we were trying to control all the small details but you can't control everything."

Wenger: We should have won

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 goal."

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 Liverpool

"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.

Reds claim Emirates draw

Evening Echo

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 snapshot.

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 referee.

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.

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Thor Zakariassen ©