Dropped, wins penalty and scores – a crazy evening for Babel

Ryan Babel has found Liverpool a bewildering kind of place in the past 12 months. He has often resorted to dodging the ice baths which his manger insists his players take after games and admits he has found rotation difficult to deal with.

But nothing could have prepared him for the crazy events of this crazy night. First he is dropped to allow Steven Gerrard the left wing birth he detests, then he watches Theo Walcott skip past five of his Liverpool team-mates to set up Emmanuel Adebayor's equaliser. Then he finishes off Arsenal single-handedly – winning a penalty in a tangle with Kolo Touré and running 20 yards to dispatch a goal of his own.

"Physically I'm not yet at the point that I'm able to play 90 minutes in the crazy tempo of the Premier League," Babel said recently. "Even against the smaller clubs it's difficult for me." But if every 10 minutes on the field gets results like this then Benitez will be more sparing with him again.

This was a priceless substitution made by a manager whose decision-making had proved rather less than convincing as the night wore on. Benitez decided he would fiddle, even in the game which would effectively end the season of one or other of the sides. So much for all the value of the legendary Anfield 12th man – the vocal Liverpool faithful which, even as the sides lined up, had Arsenal's players exchanging nervous glances. Benitez banked on his nearly man, Peter Crouch. For 10 minutes, the Spaniard appeared to have been vindicated. That was the time it took Crouch to win half a dozen headers, reducing Philippe Senderos to pulp and even making William Gallas wonder whether it was really worth marking him. But Adebayor was threatening even more. Twice, he was narrowly ruled offside as he raced through the central channel off Sami Hyypia's shoulder. Then a turn of pace which took him past Jamie Carragher proved decisive in the move leading to Abou Diaby's thumping opener.

There were some anxious faces around Anfield in the half hour after that. When Mathieu Flamini was carried off with an ankle injury Benitez, notebook in hand, placed his hands on Alonso's shoulders to force his point.

Crouch had more than validated his appearance before setting up Liverpool's second goal, with another mighty jump which put Fernando Torres through. Torres then showed, with the exquisite two right-foot touches which he needed to swivel around Senderos and the third which sent an electrifying shot past Manuel Almunia, why Crouch might always struggle for a place here.

But a night whose closing stages defy much tactical talk belonged to Babel. "We needed pace and ability. I could see Torres was tired," Benitez said of the Dutchman's introduction last night and his late contribution assigns him a place in Anfield legend.

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup