Liverpool 1-2 Arsenal: Szczesny and van Persie prove big match temperament
Sunday, 4th Mar 2012 11:57
Despite the draining international break, a rejuvenated Arsenal side built on our recent league form with the best kind of win.
After Chelsea's latest disappointment we are firmly in fourth position and are now baring down on a Tottenham side that is threatening to collapse under the rare pressure of expectation. A last minute win from their biggest rivals will turn the screw ahead of a daunting match against Man Utd.
Last week we overwhelmed our north London rivals with an almost perfect second half performance but this time, we were lacking the same energy and fluidity. Through a combination of Liverpool's profligacy and some outstanding last ditch defending and goalkeeping we kept ourselves in the game and Alex Song and Bacary Sagna again proved their ability to assist the best striker in the world. Robin van Persie's majestic finishing put every other player on the pitch in the shade.
Liverpool's packed midfield dominated the game and Luis Suarez's movement led to them slicing open our exposed defence almost at will. However they have struggled to score goals all season and they lacked the ability to provide the finishing touch, something we may well have empathy with had van Persie not been fit all season. He has now scored 25 league goals and Liverpool have 30.
Their best chance was created after another expert diver made the most of Wojciech Szczesny's eagerness to protect his goal. The big Pole raced out to narrow the angle after Suarez played a neat one-two to get past our back line but before he could get to the ball, the Uruguayan kicked it out of play before hurling himself in the air and then brushing socks with Szczesny. The referee pointed to the spot despite not having a clear view.
After the match Szczesny admitted that Wenger had spoken to him in the previous training session to tell him that he should have saved one of the previous three penalties he had faced as he had dived the right way each time. This time he saved the penalty from Kuyt but could only deflect it back into the patch of the Dutch striker who poked the ball towards the opposite corner of the goal. Incredibly Wojciech got back on his feet and launched himself at the ball to push it away, it was the best piece of goalkeeping seen at Arsenal since David Seaman's claw save against Sheffield United in the 2003 FA Cup semi-final.
Sometimes this kind of save can inspire a response from the team but we still struggled to get a foothold in the game and it wasn't long before we were behind. Liverpool's inability to put the ball in the net meant that Laurent Koscielny had to step up to the plate with a rifled finish past Szczesny's near post. It was cruel after the brilliant double save from the penalty but nothing more than we deserved.
Liverpool went on to hit the post twice through Suarez and Kuyt and also drew another brilliant save from our 'keeper but we were still back on level terms before half time after Sagna swung in a brilliant cross for van Persie to header past Reina with his first chance of the match. The Dutchman held of Jamie Carragher with ease and proved his all round brilliance as the main striker.
We improved slightly in the second half and restricted Liverpool to just one clear cut chance which fell to their right back Kelly who completely mis-hit the ball. We still struggled to create any openings of our own and a worrying injury to Mikel Arteta disrupted the game early in the half. He was caught off the ball by Henderson who ran into the side of him unnecessarily and knocked his head. Apparently Arteta was severely concussed and went to hospital but did still travel home with the team in good spirits.
Abou Diaby replaced the Spaniard on his return from injury and looked impressive but suffered a hamstring strain and had to be replaced by Oxlade-Chamberlain before the end of the match. Whenever Diaby returns from injury he never features for the reserves and appears to be rushed back into first team action where he always suffers a fresh injury. If he does not recover from this setback before the end of the season, many will expect to see him moved on from the club.
The game appeared to be meandering towards a draw but with 8 minutes injury time due to Arteta's injury there was still hope for a winner. Alex Song once again stepped up to the plate despite only arriving back from international duty on Friday to deliver an incredible pass on to van Persie's left foot. The timing and trajectory of the pass was reminiscent of his assist for van Persie's winner against Everton but this time the captain controlled the volley with the side of his foot and planted the ball past Reina's near post before celebrating in front of the ecstatic travelling support.
Another three points from another big game proves our ability but the bigger tests between now and the end of the season will be whether we have the mental strength to raise our game at home to Wigan or away to Wolves. We can now look forward to throwing the kitchen sink at Milan on Tuesday night before welcoming Newcastle next Monday in another opportunity to secure Champions league football.
Photo: Action Images
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