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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own