Liverpool. . . .0
It does not seem that long ago when a spring Saturday preamble before a major European excursion the following week was the way of life for Liverpool. Inevitably, there would be maximum League points to send them happily on their journey; inevitably, the losing manager would talk of first needing to believe in the possibility of victory in order to carry it out.
The latest Liverpool manager returned to this theme at Highbury at the finish of a game which, between bouts of goalmouth activity supported by two generous defences, struggled to justify the standing of two of England's best sides. The difference being that now he is the one with the problem of turning disbelievers into a team capable of winning on their travels.
Roy Evans said that only after Arsenal scored did Liverpool begin to get moving and accept they could take something home with them. From this angle, it was not easy to see why they should be more confident at 0-1 than 0-0, and it was more likely that the transformation was borne out of a conviction that Paul Merson was offside when he ran on to Ian Selley's through-pass.
Arsenal are not yet ready to assume Liverpool's once-proud mantle of a side fluent with the demands of European football while remaining strong enough to repel all raiders at home. Sloppy and disorganised for the final quarter, they were unwitting accomplices in the Liverpool fightback but survived to extend their unbeaten run to nine games.
Rest assured those twin Arsenal defensive pillars, discipline and concentration, will be reunited in time for tomorrow's first leg of the Cup- Winners' Cup semi-final with Paris- St-Germain, which George Graham suggests will be a harder test than the close-run win over Torino.
With that important date in mind, the Arsenal manager gave four of his senior set a breather on Saturday. With two second-half substitutions, it was the reason, he explained, for the disunity at the end but, confident he has the right balance between rest and competition, there is no reason to suppose that all four - Tony Adams, Nigel Winterburn, Paul Davis and Alan Smith - will not be back for Parc des Princes.
If PSG are as good going forward as Graham detected three nights ago, when he saw them beat Metz with a single goal, then Arsenal cannot afford to be so wasteful with the opportunities spurned before and after Merson raised his own tally to four in four Premiership starts.
Goal: Merson (47) 1-0.
Arsenal (4-4-2): Seaman; Dixon, Linighan, Bould, Keown; Parlour, Jensen (Morrow, 67), Selley, Merson; Campbell, Wright (Smith, 80). Substitutes not used: Miller (gk).
Liverpool (4-4-2): James; Jones, Wright (Nicol, 29), Ruddock, Dicks; McManaman, Redknapp, Whelan, Barnes; Fowler (Thomas, 71), Rush. Substitute not used: Grobbelaar (gk).
Referee: R Hart (Darlington).
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