Liverpool drama no consolation for dropped points
Wednesday 22 April 2009
Liverpool have produced a season's worth of drama in a week that saw them score eight goals.
But after conceding eight goals in the same two matches, the team's prospects of ending the season with a trophy have slipped further away.
A 4-4 draw at Chelsea last Tuesday still led to Champions League elimination after a first leg collapse, and last night's mesmerizing 4-4 repeat with Arsenal has made their Premier League title push a lot tougher.
Liverpool may be top of the Premier League - but only on goal difference and defending champion Manchester United have two games in hand, the first against Portsmouth tonight.
That's why the draw with Arsenal felt like a defeat to manager Rafa Benitez and the Liverpool fans who stayed until Yossi Benayoun's stoppage time equalizer.
"We had so many chances in the first half it was unbelievable to go in at half time losing 1-0," Benitez said. "We deserved something more."
For all the team's fighting spirit, though, the damage was inflicted by Andrei Arshavin becoming the first player in more than 60 years to score four goals at Anfield.
"It was a very good game for the fans, but very bad for the managers," Benitez said. "To score four goals is very good but we made massive mistakes conceding goals.
"Clearly if we would have won we would have put United under pressure, but now we will have to wait."
That Arshavin was in a position to put an under-strength Arsenal side ahead in the 36th minute owed as much to Liverpool's Javier Mascherano losing the ball on the edge of the penalty area as goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski blocking three shots from Fernando Torres before then.
Fabianski's transformation from the man blamed for Arsenal's FA Cup semi-final loss to Chelsea on Saturday to the strong hands at Anfield even amazed Gunners' officials at the match.
But the lead only lasted until the third minute of the second half. This time Arsenal's defense was at fault. After Bacary Sagna's poor clearance the ball ended up at Torres' head to level.
When Benayoun nodded the Reds ahead in the 56th at a congested back post when connecting with Dirk Kuyt's cross, it seemed they were finally in a position to take control as the early danger had suggested.
Arshavin had other ideas. The Russia playmaker added two more goals to make it 3-2 with 20 minutes to go, seizing on mistakes from Alvaro Arbeloa and Fabio Aurelio.
"We made massive mistakes," Benitez said. "It is difficult to explain because it was different players in different stages of the game."
Torres did haul Liverpool back to 3-3 in the 72nd, turning Mikael Silvestre and fired past Fabianski, but then saw a header cleared off the line by Gibbs.
Arsenal went back in front through Arshavin in stoppage time before Benayoun had the last say to make it 4-4.
The Premier League may be out of the reach for the Gunners, being nine points adrift of the leaders, but they are having a huge say on the trophy's destination. They play Champions League semi-final opponent Man United in the penultimate domestic match next month.
"It is still very open. It depends on what kind of form Manchester United find because they had a bit of a problem before the interruption of the Champions League so we will see how they come back against Portsmouth," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. "I never doubted the character of my players.
"The fact they came into the dressing room very, very disappointed says a lot about their character. It shows they wanted to win and that we go for it every time."
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