With no Henry, Ljungberg, Campbell or Bergkamp in the starting line-up Arsene left it to the enthusiastic kids to take on a possibly tired Liverpool, who kicked off towards the North Bank following a late huddle. A predictable chant of ‘One team in Europe’ came from the Scousers and no one will deny them that. A long ball to Baros saw some poor control from their number 5 in the early sparring. Van Persie had a shot saved and Reyes followed up by netting with a tap in that had me in the air until I spotted the offside flag raised. Given the lack of replays shown for this ‘goal’ it must have been somewhat marginal. Riise at the other end had a great one-on-one chance against Lehmann but a fine save with his feet by Jens saved the day. A serious let off.
Liverpool played as usual a loose 4 5 1 with Gerrard looking to get forward, more often than not it was more of a 4 2 3 1 with two holding midfield players. Fabregas then had me out of my seat when his drilled shot appeared to bulge the netting but had in fact gone inches wide. Soon after a yellow card was given by Poll for a ‘handball goal’ by Baros. ‘Have you ever won the Premiership, have you feck’
Further good pressing by Arsenal followed, together with some altogether slicker one-touch ball play. A ball worked in from the left found Reyes on a run who charged into their box at great speed and his pace took him far enough forward to unleash his shot past Dudek for our second. 2-0 Arsenal just four minutes after our opener. ‘Easy, Easy, Easy’ ‘You might as well go home.’ Arsenal were seemingly in total control but Liverpool came back at us with their own brand of fast one-touch and the game had changed from a closed shop to an open match. Cesc with a brilliant ball to Cole who in turn found Van Persie well but the Dutchman’s shot was saved low. Sparkling football from Arsenal. Another stunning move saw a baffled Liverpool beaten all ends up. We were back to playing the way we had at our best during the now classic 49 game run.
A great interception by Vieira and we were off again. Domination was not quite complete because Baros, thanks to some arm wrestling on Senderos, got through far enough to crash into Jens. Both stayed down but seemingly recovered. A great ovation as Arsenal left the pitch well on top at the break.
At half time Cisse and Kewell replaced Baros and Riise. Cisse opened his account quite quickly with a seriously crap shot. This was a definate case of a game of two halves. Having finished the first half totally dominant we fell to pieces after the break. Liverpool outplayed us for the majority of the half and quite often had us at sixes and sevens. Quite why I’m not sure, but I suspect a half time rollicking for the Scousers may have played it’s part. That and a embarrassingly one-sided opening 45 minutes.
Graham Poll (I’m sure you know his song) played his part as well, giving any number of free kicks to Liverpool for stumbles and slow motion action replay diving, especially from Kewell and Alonso. Xabi Alonso might well become one of the great Premiership players, but unfortunately he has a tendency to fall down at the drop of a ‘montera’. He goes down even more regularly than that donkey Drogba but the refs have not yet seen enough of him to appreciate this obvious fact. One such totally unjustified free kick won by Alonso saw Gerrard hit his free kick hard and low and aided by a deflection it beat Jens. 2-1 and we were rattled. A foul by Hyypia on Vieira for what could and should have been a card but wasn’t.
Ashley Cole was doing the biz at the back but elsewhere we were being hit with the long ball down the middle. Cole held off Kewell in one such attack, which was just as well. Pires and Alonso went down in a heap after what seemed like a tough 50/50 tackle, both required treatment. Garcia and Cisse were both caught offside in the next Liverpool attack. Jens punched one clear in a rather frantic manner. Alonso found Cisse well but he shot over yet again.
A double substitution saw Dennis and Edu replace Robin, who’d done well, and the limping Rob, who’d also had a fine match. Edu when he wasn’t sleepwalking can be a class act, but not today. Dennis got stuck in and had the odd quality touch. Kewell was at it with Lauren, as the Clock End wanted blood. The rest of us just wanted the bloody ball out of our half for a while. More falling over from Alonso and a great save from Jens. The match was now rather bitty but Liverpool were no longer dominating, although they still clearly wanted the points.
A great cross by Cisse from their right, it had Lehmann beaten but was a tad too deep. Cisse got through again but this time it was Garcia’s turn to shoot over. A great cross-field ball by Cesc to Dennis. Being 18 clearly agrees with young Fabregas because he had a fabulous match today and yet seemed surprised not to be subbed. He hit one past Dudek in front of the North Bank but the offside flag was up to deny us a goal, yet again. Cesc was getting forward well and had another shot from just outside the box. Vieira to Reyes for what looked a penalty as he cut back inside, the North Bank certainly thought so and told Poll all about it.
Lauren was still giving it large as Reyes came off with four minutes remaining to be replaced by Aliadiere. Garcia went down rather easily for another free kick. Taken by Gerrard as usual and headed none too far wide by Hyypia in another brown trouser moment. Alonso went down again like a U-boat captain and Poll bought it again like the **** he is. Dennis to Jeremie almost. Gilberto with a wild shot from an angle after a well-timed run. At least we were back in the contest. Poll missed both Dennis and Jeremie being shoved in the back, just to prove what a wanker he is.
I’m not sure where the four minutes added time came from but maybe Liverpool are the new United. Cisse had another shot blocked before Aliadiere was given offside. With almost four minutes added time played a neat move and a sweet little pass from Dennis allowed Cesc to squeeze through to net our third. Arsenal didn’t deserve a two-goal lead but I’ll be the last one to complain about that. Three more points suits me fine.