Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool: Gunners avenge league demolition
Eight days ago, Arsenal had been brutally put to the sword by an immaculate Liverpool performance. However, the Gunners exacted revenge on the Reds due to a combination of Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and Howard Webb to charter a FA Cup quarter-final tie with high-flying Everton.
Chamberlain excelled as he expertly tucked home his first and then supplied Lukas Podolski for Arsenal's second of the afternoon.
However, Liverpool, not for the first time this week, displayed a commendable amount of spirit and were unlucky not to have forced a replay.
Steven Gerrard's indisputable spot-kick gave the visitors hope as they pushed for the decisive equaliser, which in truth should have arrived after Suarez was denied a stonewall penalty by Howard Webb, who is comically set for Brazil in the summer.
Gerrard should then have been sent-off for a second yellow card after the Reds skipper cynically fouled Chamberlain, the same player on which he earned himself his first caution.
It made for an end-to-end encounter, with both sides battling it to progress into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, where Everton, conquerors of Swansea in the earlier match, await.
It could have been argued that Arsene Wenger's under-strength aide did not merit their crucial victory, with the Frenchman excusing the absences of Sagna, Wilshere, Gibbs and Santi Cazorla with the claim of "medical problems", but stating all will be "ok" for the visit of European champions Bayern Munich on Wednesday. Resting players for a winnable game and trophy for a game and competition he is extensive underdogs to win. It was as if he had not been notified of Jose Mourinho's brutal "nine-year" taunt.
Lukasz Fabianski, who replaced fellow Polish keeper Szczesny, was absolutely magnificent in the Arsenal goal as he produced countless vital stops to thwart the potent attacking force which is the SAS. Meanwhile, lone striker Yaya Sanago, who was making only his first start for the Gunners, caused Liverpool problems with his brilliant work-rate and desire to battle for every ball.
The same, regarding team selections, could not be said of Brendan Rodgers as the Reds boss made only three changes from his side's hard-fought victory over Fulham in midweek, with Jones, Agger and Allen coming in for Mignolet, Toure and Henderson as the Northern Irishman stated his intent for FA Cup glory.
And the Reds deserved more from the match with weak finishing and Howard Webb's shocking denial of an obtrusive penalty playing a telling role.
Liverpool blew Arsenal away in an explosive nineteen minute display at Anfield last Saturday as they made a mockery of Arsen's title credentials and threatened to do so once again with an electric start.
Rodgers' side should have been 2-0 up after the opening four minutes, with two excellent chances falling to Sturridge. After Steven Gerrard's beautifully-weighted pass, Fabianski blocked the England striker's effort, but the 25 year-old did not have to wait long for another goalscoring opportunity. Having been played in well by strike partner Luis Suarez, Sturridge rounded Fabianski, only to hit the side netting. Liverpool's bright start mirrored their electrifying early play eight days ago, as Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscienly were oblivious to Sturridge's intelligent movement with the Gunners unable to cops with the visitors' nimble runs and quality of passing.
Nonetheless, Wenger's side, against the run of play, took the lead courtesy of Chamberlain's composed finish after 17 minutes, with the England midfielder staking a claim for his inclusion in Hodgson's World Cup squad. Having bravely got in the way of Sanogo's goal-bound volley, the ball unluckily ricoheted off Gerrard's back and invitingly into the path of Arsenal's on-rushing No.12, who compellingly tucked the ball home to delight of a packed Emirates Stadium. 59,801 was the official figure.
The second period began in a similar fashion to the first. After Fabianski had thwarted Suarez's effort with his leg, Chamberlain ran terrifically down the right as he pulled the ball back to Lukas Podolski who, on his weaker foot, sweeped the ball between the legs of No.2 'keeper Brad Jones to double Arsenal's advantage. It was an element of the youngster's impressive performance which won him the Budweiser Man Of The Match accolade. Scored one, made one.
Suarez came close with a spectacular volleyed effort which flew metres above Fabianski's goalmouth before the Uruguayan was plainly clipped by Podolski, forcing Webb to point to the spot. Gerrard, as he did at Fulham on Wednesday evening, withstood the immense pressure to propel Liverpool back into the game.
It was seemingly good practice for the defensive yield which will await when European champions Bayern come to town on Wednesday, but it should not have ended in a positive note from Brendan Rodgers' perspective.
Four minutes following his awarding of a penalty, Webb bowed to the pressure from the stands as he denied Suarez and Liverpool a stonewall penalty after the 25 year-old was clearly clattered by Chamberlain.
However, the World Cup-going official's next act of poor refereeing went in the way of the Reds, as Steven Gerrard escaped a second booking for his second cynical foul on Chamberlain and his subsequent marching orders.
Liverpool should have equalised late on, after Daniel Agger, who started ahead of the recently error-prone Kolo Toure, beat Fabianski to Gerrard's brilliant dead ball delivery. The Polish 'keeper found himself in no man's land as the Denmark skipper headed just wide as the visitors came close forcing a replay.
But Arsenal hung on as Wenger's gamble to name a weakened starting eleven, by hook and by crook, paid off. And as the clock of the so-called Clock End at the Emirates continues to tick, you get the feeling its not too long before Arsene Wenger and his players answer their fans' imploring request for silverware.
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