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Oliver Kahles

Liverpool's advantage - but only just

Startbeitrag von Oliver Kahles am 03.04.2008 05:37

Arsene Wenger's eyesight is notoriously selective - but he had no trouble seeing the moment that could ultimately cost Arsenal a place in the Champions League semi-final.

The phrase "stonewall penalty" might have been invented for Dirk Kuyt's blatant tug on Alexander Hleb as he raced into the area after 66 minutes.

Dutch referee Pieter Vink, however, astonishingly spared Liverpool to leave Rafael Benitez's side in pole position to reach the last four.

Wenger was understandably frustrated, but when the dust settles on a tie Arsenal should have won, he will have seen enough to suggest that while it is advantage Liverpool, no-one should bring the curtain down on the Gunners' hopes.

It was not quite the game everyone predicted.

Liverpool were compact, resolute and limited in their attacking ambition. Arsenal passed, sometimes into submission, and held most of the aces up front, but there was an unpredictability to the game that was not expected.

There was an air of fragility about both rearguards at times, particularly Liverpool's, but their in-built European resilience saw them survive a second period when possession was all Arsenal's for lengthy spells.

Liverpool fans rightly left The Emirates happier with a hard-fought draw and Kuyt's crucial away goal in their locker. They will hope the traditional adrenalin-fuelled Anfield atmosphere will again be the key component for another famous victory next Tuesday.

Benitez is the master architect of important European results, and all logic suggests he has the foundations in place for progress after another display of tactical discipline, aided by a massive slice of good fortune with the "penalty" incident.

Liverpool have this quarter-final to lose now. They will not care about Arsenal's hard luck stories or what might have been, but they will also be wary of one of the most potent counter-attacking sides in Europe.

Steven Gerrard will drive even more from his very advanced midfield role at home, while Fernando Torres will be more potent at Anfield, where his goalscoring record is in stark contrast to that on his travels.

But if there is a team built to get an away goal, even in the European fortress of Anfield, it is Arsenal.

This is why this last eight encounter is still so delicately poised.

Liverpool should not be tempted to sit back on this result because Wenger, once he had got his disappointment off his chest, was right to suggest his team can go to Anfield and win.

The home side will need to be positive and Benitez will have noted Arsenal have the ability to cut through even the most rigidly-drilled rearguard, especially away from home.

Emmanuel Adebayor's height and power troubled Liverpool, while the guile of Cesc Fabregas might have more space to exploit at Anfield as opposed to the footballing trench warfare that unfolded at The Emirates.

Liverpool will also have more attacking intent at Anfield and Arsenal will be find themselves under severe pressure, both from their opponents and the crowd.

Can they cope under such strain? This could hold the key.

The advantage undoubtedly lies with Liverpool - but no-one, least of all anyone at Anfield, will be under any illusions that the destiny of the quarter-final has already been decided.


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