Apr 052008

Arsenal 1 (Bendtner 54) Liverpool 1 (Crouch 42)

On Wednesday night, Arsenal drew 1-1 with Liverpool but deserved a great deal more. Today, the result was repeated but on this occasion it was a much fairer reflection of a game that just didn’t seem as important to either side, perhaps a subconscious concession that the title race has gone for one, and fourth place is secure for the other.

Liverpool made eight changes, understandable given their ever increasing lead over Everton, while Wenger tried to win the match at the same time as giving Adebayor, Clichy and Hleb a break. That left Traore and Hoyte at full back, and after two minutes, the right back carried on from where he left off at Old Trafford, giving the ball away, Crouch forcing a superb save from Almunia. In fairness to Hoyte, he was much better after that.

Which cannot be said about the overall team performance in the first half. Bendtner had a good chance, and Walcott looked lively, but Liverpool were creating the better opportunities and shortly before the break Reina pumped a long ball up front, Crouch and Benayoun combined well, Crouch turned Gallas inside out and scored past us once again.

In fairness, they deserved it, and the half time score was disappointing. But what was more annoying was to hear some of the fans booing the team off – at this point in the season, they need some confidence and support, not to be chastised despite giving us so many good times over the last eight months. A particularly poor moment for that minority in the crowd.

The second half was much better, Toure heading wide when unmarked, and Flamini forcing a decent save from Reina. But it was thanks to the Liverpool keeper that the equaliser came, Cesc’s distant free kick dropping on to the edge of the six yard area, Reina not coming to claim, and Bendtner making a darting run to power home.

Wenger went on the offensive, bringing on Adebayor for Hoyte, and either side could’ve won it, the best chances falling to Voronin and Hleb in injury time. Cesc could’ve had a penalty when Lucas grabbed a fistful of his shirt, but unlike Wednesday, that would’ve been an injustice. A draw was fair this time.

And with that, any remaining hopes of winning the title are snuffed out. Even second place is looking tricky, with Chelsea winning to move three points ahead. With Old Trafford the venue for our next league match, it may be a while until that gap can be closed.

It’s frustrating to watch at the moment, but take some solace in this fact – last season was poor because we lost too many matches. This season we’ve just drawn too many instead, a clear improvement. One more step is all it takes.

Now, on to Tuesday. That one is vital, and the tie is firmly in the balance. For some reason, I fancy another Milan style performance to keep the season alive. If we can just get past it, the rest of the Champions League fixtures are surrounded by much simpler league games, unlike the run we’re on at the moment.

So the title may be gone, but there are always positives. For that reason, I won’t mention the man Wenger keeps playing on the right wing. It’ll only kill the mood.

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