Arsenal v Liverpool I: Referee blindness, Bendtner’s leg deny Arsenal a deserved first-leg lead

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It can be a frustrating process watching Arsenal play and last night’s game was certainly that. Despite dominating possession and making enough clear-cut chances to win the match, Arsene Wenger’s side were held to a 1-1 draw by Liverpool in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie.

The home side dominated the early exchanges and were rewarded with a 23rd minute opener when Emmanuel Adebayor headed home a neat corner from Robin van Persie, but conceded just three minutes later when Steven Gerrard ghosted past Emmanuel Eboue and Kolo Toure before setting up Dirk Kuyt with the leveller. In the second half Arsenal were denied a clear penalty when Kuyt tugged down Alexandr Hleb while Cesc Fabregas was denied a certain goal when his goalbound shot was comically (if you were anything but an Arsenal supporter, of course) blocked on the line by substitute Nicklas Bendtner.

Bendtner can’t get out the way of Fabregas’ shot

So, it ended at 1-1 and despite being made to look distinctly ordinary, Liverpool will go into the second leg as favourites to qualify. Whether they deserve that tag or not is highly debatable given the footballing lesson they were treated to in the second half by Wenger’s side, but there’s little doubt that the final result did favour the away side. However, there wouldn’t be an Arsenal supporter alive who doesn’t think Wenger’s side can go to Anfield and at least grab a score draw, so all is not lost just yet.

The starting team was the one I hinted at yesterday with the manager opting to go with Eboue on the right side of the midfield over Theo Walcott. It turned out to be the wrong decision as the Ivorian had a completely ineffective game while the Englishman looked dazzling when he replaced van Persie at half time. Before Arsenal scored they looked the better side as Flamini, Fabregas and Hleb took control of the midfield and van Persie looked creative up front. The pressure was rewarded with the type of goal that this side are getting much, much better at scoring as Adebayor smartly headed home his strike partner’s corner.

Unfortunately the lead only lasted a couple of minutes. Three players were directly culpable for Kuyt’s goal as first Flamini failed to win a tackle that should have been made on Gerrard before Eboue and Toure were inexplicably stood up by the Liverpool captain’s fast feet. I don’t care how good Gerrard’s skill was, however, neither of the latter two players should have been beaten the way they were and it was some a seriously poor effort, especially considering Toure’s pre-game comments about nullifying the Englishman.

Arsenal looked shocked after the equaliser as Liverpool enjoyed their best spell of the game. However, the away side created very little up front as Gallas and Senderos shackled Torres rather well and the half ended at 1-1.

Walcott again impressed after coming off the benchPlaying without luck

I was surprised to see van Persie replaced at the break for Walcott. When I saw the youngster preparing to come on from the sideline I thought for sure that Eboue would be replaced, but it was revealed after the match that it was a forced change as the Dutchman had suffered a recurrence of his pesky thigh injury. It was a shame, too, as van Persie had looked the brightest attacking threat on the park for Arsenal in the first half and troubled the Liverpool defence on a number of occasions.

In the second half it was all Arsenal, but a mixture of poor refereeing, poor finishing and just plain bad luck meant Liverpool escaped with a draw. Indeed, Arsenal’s best performer in the second half – Hleb – was denied the clearest of penalties after his arm was tugged by Dirk Kuyt when through on goal. Now, while I am not one to harp on endlessly about penalty appeals that get turned down I have to say that Pieter Vink’s decision in this case was absolutely shocking. As the manager said after the game, Kuyt’s tug on the arm was about as clear as you can get and the referee was only 5 yards away with a perfect view I really can’t see how the referee made such a huge mistake.

Things got worse just a few minutes later when great work from Adebayor down the left saw Fabregas poke an effort towards the bottom corner of the goal. But Nicklas Bendtner, who had come on just a few minutes before, inadvertedly blocked the Spaniard’s effort and denied Arsenal a certain goal. On another day that would surely have gone in and the fact that you could see Bendtner mouthing the words; “I was trying to move my leg” after the effort summed up the situation perfectly. This was a game where the little things just weren’t going Arsenal’s way.

Things rather fizzled out in the final twenty minutes as Liverpool dropped deeper and deeper and the Arsenal players simply ran out of legs. They gave it their all and created the three or four chances required to win the game but as the manager pointed out after the game, it just didn’t happen.

“We tried very hard to create chances and in a game like that you do not create twenty chances, you create four or five. We had four – five, and we were punished on the one they had, and unfortunately we could not take all our chances.”

There are definitely parallels that can be drawn between this game and the first-leg against AC Milan and in that respect, I still feel Arsenal remain a good chance of going through. While a 0-0 at Anfield will see Liverpool qualify I just can’t see the game remaining scoreless and Arsenal’s performance earlier in the season at the same ground will give them great cause for optimism in that regard.

So, no disaster then but there is little doubt that the result was disappointing given the pattern of the game. The Arsenal boys and all the supporters will hope for better both this weekend in the Premiership and in the return at Anfield next Wednesday night.

What do you think?

Have your say on Arsenal v Liverpool I by leaving a comment.


37 thoughts on “Arsenal v Liverpool I: Referee blindness, Bendtner’s leg deny Arsenal a deserved first-leg lead

  1. We played better than Livpool and deserved to win…Bendtner is DUMB..he scored own goal against Spurs and today blocked Cesc’s shot..Refree was sleeping I think…Forget CL too…season is almost over now..I hope we finish above Chelsea atleast….Sorry Gunners, Livpool always play well at Anfield (Inter,Barca, Chelsea too couldn’t break Anfield)..

  2. Arsenal were expected to dominate the game being the home side. The way Liverpool approach CL games, especially the first leg away,the onus is put on the home side to break them down. Arsenal played well and as a Liverpool fan I would say should be going to Anfield a goal or 2 up but thankfully they are not. I would hardly call it a footballing lesson but I will concede that Arsenal had most of the play as expected. The penalty decision was 50/50 – not as blatant as you say.However, as a fan I would expect to get it. The Bendtner incident was just plain bad luck. Overall, I think Arsenal are an excellent side but not as good as you think. The game at Anfield is far from over and if you are jammy enough to go through then please win the CL; just as long as the Scum don’t. I expect a weaker Liverpool team in the League game on Saturday and a different formation.

  3. We should have won, we were much better than Liverpool.

    This is by no means over we’re well capable of beating them at anfield.

    For me Toure and eboue were both ineffective and they need to do alot better in the return leg.Eboue really does need a lot of shooting practise some of his shooting was terrible.Toure just looked lost, for some reason since his return he hasn’t been the same player.

    It certainly wasn’t our night, a combination of bad finishing and a dodgy refereeing decision cost us.

    It’ll be tough at anfield but it’s certainly not beyond us that’s for sure.

  4. I also didn’t think it was a footballing lesson. Arsenal continues to pass backwards instead of attacking quickly far too often. The difference when Theo came on was notable. Of course that pushed Hleb to his favorite position in a 4-5-1 and made him more effective as well. I am very confident that Arsenal can win at Anfield and don’t think it holds the fear for our squad that it might for others coming from Europe. However, I think we should either replace Kolo or Eboue with Theo. That would mean Eboue and Hleb on the right, or Kolo and Hleb. Keep Theo on the left where he can terrorize Carrigher, who really isn’t fast enough for him, and make Kuyt play defense.

  5. If we look at it analytically …for all the possession and dominance we had …we scored the goal from another set piece …it was Liverpool who scored in open play. Apart from the header Ade seemed to plough the left flank and didn’t really trouble their goalie. I can accept the ref making a baad decision that’s football and is part of the joy and heartache that makes football far more exciting and free flowing than any other team sport. What I can’t accept is Bendtners clearance off the line. I could understand it if the Cesc had rifled the shot at goal like a bullet and he didn’t have time to get out the way, or if the shot had come from a lot closer to goal which would also have given him little time to react. But Cesc’s shot was a stretched effort that was not fierce and which any schoolkid playing in the park would have jumped over or got out the way. Even if I’d ate all the pies at half time I’d have been able to waddle round the post to get out the way … Bendtner was trying to be his arrogant self and flick it up and backheel in …if he had the quick feet of a Ronaldo he may have been able to accomplish this but as he hasn’t got the skill, only the inflated ego and arogance, he has cost this club dear. At the end our players looked mentally and physically exhausted …and trying hard to catch up on the few Liverpool attacks there were. I really fear for us now and come Old Trafford we could be ripe for a 4 to 10 nil thrashing. If Gerrard could skin Toure and Eboue then what will Ronaldo, Rooney, Teves and Anderson do ???? even old man Giggs will have a field day if he plays.

  6. all to play for, bendtner was very unfortunate to be in the way, he tried to get out the way but got his legs tangled up a la baby deer, either way we’d do best to forget this and focus on doing the bastards up at anfield

  7. Hi Guys,

    Great game yesterday..u guys totally dominated proceedings..tough luck though..Liverpool is always lucky in the CL..Anyway u guys can easily do it in the next game..


  8. Im suprised it hasnt been mentioned yet, but has everyone forgotten that Fenerbache beat chelsea today? Ba luck about bendtner.. he just came on and was still adjusting.. got in the way.. dont actually know how he ended up there in the 1st place, but anyway.. 🙂 That was the most penalty-ish penalty that could ever been given a penalty!! talk about blind…

  9. Not sure yet on the news on RVP, sorry. Keep scouring the news sites.

    What’s everybody’s thoughts on the Bendtner situation? I’ve read on a couple of blogs (as well as Mark’s comment on this blog) that people think he tried to flick it in. I’m not so sure though… to me it just looked like he got confused and tangled up. A poor bit of play for sure, but quite unintentional.

    Anyone agree? Disagree? I’m interested to hear.

  10. Nice idea, vlcgooner. I like the thought of Theo starting wide left and going at Carragher. Eboue was horrible yesterday – never attacked and made far too many loose passes. He’s looked a shambles lately.

  11. I,m really disapointed with the reaction of most Arsenal fans and the press “lucky liverpool” and “the ref is dutch like kuyt” do you not think in the 30 odd years we have played in europe that a decision didnt go our way now and then? Gerrard could of gone down when crossing the ball for the goal with ease but stayed on his feet,Hleb was looking for a penalty and that is the truth and far worse an offence that Kuyt commited, but that is football its the way it goes some you win and some you lose, we played the perfect european game 1-1 away from home under pressure, its what we’re good at and why we have 5 european cups in our cabinet already, so maybe Liverpool did a better job than being given credit for!

  12. Didn’t get to see the game despite recording it. We are more productive under pressure which explains our comebacks. We will go through and I will go on a limb to predict a thorough thrashing of liverpool @ anfield. More of a 5 – 1 kinda thrashing. A win would have been superb, a 0-0 draw wouldn’t have been bad, but at 1-1, liverpool will be hoping for a 0-0 draw which is not going to happen. If we don’t score early and don’t concede early we are going to score at the end and l’pool would have been holding for a scoreless draw. Any ways, I think this will be the dream I had before Milan about Real (in white) thrashing Barcelona (in redish/dark) and all arsenal fans were VERY HAPPY. Sometimes you hope the dreams come true. The troubling part of the dream was that we had just had a bad result in a previous game but no consequences. I hope this bad result is the 1-1 draw or the Chelsea(pushing it) loss. We are going to win the Saturday clash

  13. TayGoon And Father Christmas scored the winning goal at Anfield In you dream was there any chance that Eboue was run over by a bus?

  14. The way Arsenal played, they should have been 2 or 3 up. Some 1/20 vision refereeing and “deer in the headlights” theatrics should have seen them up.
    But how many times in Europe do you hear that about Liverpool? How they hardly seem to get the ball in one leg and yet still pass on to the next round.
    It’s fucking boring, but it works. Especially when you have a chance-goal conversion rate like Torres. The guy is what I believe Eduardo would have been by the end of the year with his finishes – thankfully the defence kept him quiter than usual this game.
    Although Arsenal dominated for most of the game, and the liverpool defence did let a few slip through, I still believe it’s what Liverpool wanted to achieve. I agree with 1979gooner – Benitez has always played like this in the away games in the first leg, or in the second leg if he has an advantage – more an 8-0-2 formation than any real midfield, soaking up the pressure and hitting on the counter – and for all of arsenals chances, it seemed to work.
    Gerrard’s work in the Liverpool goal was fantastic – Flamini castrated himself and then Gerrard took the knife and claimed the 2 defenders – it was amazing.
    Flamini, however, I thought was possibly the best out on the field that day – the guys work rate is astonishing, he pulls the most mileage out of practically every game he is in – who wouldn’t have expected him to win this –,,12306~1276569,00.html

    Hleb also did extremely well, and that referee must have been drunk, stoned and retarded not to see that penalty – even Kuyt’s was packing it in.

    Bendtner – Liverpool’s Best Defender – Noone will really know what happened but him, but personally i think he just turned thoise pants brown and couldn’t move out of the way fast enough. I feel sorry for him – he is going to be copping shit for weeks from his mates about it.

  15. Well first get off Bendtner. I’m tired of people taking out their frustrations on this guy. Do I think he needs to go at the end of the season yes.

    Does he deserve all the criticism he gets, no. The fact that the shot was weak works for both arguments. The shot didn’t have ferocity on it and believe me while Bendtner isn’t Henry if he wanted to back heel or more likely turn and chip it in he could have. He was simply moving back into position and didn’t pick up ball until it was too late. It hit his feet and then yes at the point what choice did he have? He tried to back heel it in after he realized he inadvertently blocked it.

    Secondly while Eboue was quite poor offensively and his shooting woes are well documented I don’t think he contributed nothing in this game. Now perhaps I’m reaching on this if I am let me know. It seemed to me though that Eboue spent much of his night covering Toure on the right. Not Dirk Kuyt time in the back but a decent amount on that right side. Every time the ball went there he seemed to be there to help Toure out.

    Thirdly Wallcott did show his normal acceleration of the game when he came on and rightly so but unless I missed it much of it seemed to disappear once he was moved out wide.

    I think Toure was just starting to get back in the grove at center back and now having to fill in at right back has thrown him for a loop. It’s a shame but our squad is deadly thin at the moment especially of RVP can’t play this weekend or worse.

    I think our defense might be best at the moment with Clichy-Senderos-Gallas-Eboue. If that’s our back line however what do we do in the midfield. Diaby is suspended this weekend so that forces us to play Wallcott on the right and Bendtner and Ade up. That’s not good. If RVP is out our best front two is IMHO Wallcot and Ade. Ugh. I hope I’m missing something. Christ almighty let RVP be fit.

    Anyways if Wenger doesn’t go out and buy this off season… I don’t expect him to admit he was wrong (as I was as well) about Arsenal not needing to buy in January. But I do expect him to realize he was wrong and buy in the Summer.

    Finally lets end this rant on a positive. Liverpool didn’t look impressive and I see no reason why we can’t win at the Emirates and at Anfield as long as our boys concentrate for the full 90 on defense. And boy oh boy wasn’t it absolutely FUN to watch Gallas and Big Phil force Torres to run himself to death. I thoroughly enjoyed that. Cheers.

  16. EJ, why would Hleb be looking for a penalty when he was on course to try to score?(that would be dumb).He was pulled down, come on dude, it is was it is!. Now Torres! i think the draft under my front door could have made him fall last night and he kept crying all night at the slightest touch. hey we can be biased all we want but the truth is the truth. liverpool were lucky, the ref was there best player!

    As Far as Bendtner, looking at the replays it seems like he did have enough time to move and tried to flick it in, Check it again! He wants to score and messed up, i think. Would it have been offside if he didnt touch it?

    God Bless

  17. Watched the replay yet again. Nik was completely off balance and back pedaling to keep from falling down after his attempted header. He was looking at Reina and didn’t pick up the ball till late. He then tried to plant with his left I believe in a one footed attempt at jumping over the ball(a two footed jump would have simply led to him falling over and still blocking the shot). Unfortunately the ball hit said foot in which case he then attempted an off balance back heel. All in all just poor luck for Arsenal. Sometimes that happens in football.

  18. Gooner Don: I like Eboue, with my dreams being biased, he has very little chance of getting any kind of bad stuff. I’ll watch the game after work tonight.

  19. It amazes me that no one has mentioned that Bendtner was not offsides when it was called after the ball made contact with him. Sami Hypia was standing on the line and the linesman made a terrible call…..because there was the potential for a rebound there

  20. It might have been already mentioned, but the ref had incorrectly ruled Bendtner offside when the shot hit him as well. Man, I feel sorry for Bendtner, he had tried to get up to hit the header, and was off balance when he came down, and accidently blocked it. I cannot find fault with him on that point.

  21. Why cant we just win and get on with much analysis and frustrations from arsenal.

    2 wins in 10 matches.Bad.I think Arsene is the cause of all this.we need two players in every position.Did u see the man u game? didnt know park still existed.they rested their players so they can fight on both fronts. our squad is thin.very thin.some players are not worth playing for arsenal
    1. Hoyte
    2. Bentner
    3. Gilberto
    4. Lehman

    There are a few others but i am too sad to call names.we wont win nothing again this season but i have choosen my club so i have to stick with them.
    we wont win in anfield dont be decieved.Gosh Arsenal sucks atimes

  22. The referee Pieter Vink, lives in a village that neighbours Kuyt’s home town of Katwijk and that in my opinion played a part in not giving the penalty against him it might not be calculated but definitely influenced his decision to favour his neighbour and countryman. Anyway that’s done and dusted now. I’m still waiting for that tiny bit of luck to come our way we are due some. Who knows it might come at Anfield. Bendtner has presence power and good touch but his poisoning is poor and yesterday proved it to me even more. To sneak into the right positions is a talent is an instinct strikers have and he has none of it I’m afraid.Enough said. We will rip them apart at Anfield and I mean that we’ve done it before. Anfield is no strange place to Arsenal Barnsley beat them there in FA cup. Kop this Kop that bullshit.We’ll turn it around.

  23. Just on the Bendtner offside call, there are a couple of people who seem to think he was onside because there was a man on the line. However, the rules are that if you are beyond the goalkeeper (which Bendtner was) then there needs to be two other players between you and the goal. In this case their was only one, so Bendtner was offside.

    Of course, if he had not touched the ball the call would not have been made. So it was unlucky all round.

  24. After watching the game last night(recorded), I am very optimistic about our next matches. Liverpool can’t last 270 minutes of the stuff we dished out in the game. Their luck won’t hold that long too. On the Bendtner clearance, I can’t fault him a bit. Hopefully it will spur him to get hungrier.

  25. Did anybody notice the “Thumb up” by Kuyt to the ref after the ref ruled out the penalty?.

  26. Poor Hleb, he has been denied several penalties of late, some of which he even got carded for.

  27. We’re beat up and battered but not broken. I think the next two fixtures Liverpool may bring a wee bit of overconfidence to. It’s time our luck came back. It’s time we shocked the pants off of Liverpewl.

  28. Liverpool has been outclassed by Arsenal this season. They wont be over confident, they will be worried about keeping Arsenal out. Theo will be key, the Liverpool back 4 cant keep pace with him and if he has a good next 2 games Arsenal will win both, and Theo will run circles around Liverpools back 4.

  29. Almunia
    Arsenal 3-Liverpool 0

  30. I have always been a believer but now I am more of a dreamer. We threw the game away today and unless chelsea infect Man U with their poor play, I just hope Man U lose 3 in the last 6. We have given Liverpool too much belief for the Tuesday clash by not beating them today and although I am almost confident that we will score @ anfield, we have made life a lot more difficult for us even in the champions league.

  31. I think the goal Liverpool to equalise was very careless… there were many chances for the defenders to clear the ball but no one went in for the tackle and the ball in the end was crossed dangerously across goal and converted by an on-rushing bunch of players.


  33. Dear Mr Arsene Wenger,
    I am a patrotic Arsenal Fc fan ,please i will like to make a reasonable comment on our performances so far . if i will have to go by yesterday match against liverpool ,i thougt liverpool won the match from the bench .please The Professor we believe in you and we have total confidence and support in you because we gunners fans believes that you can still take us to promise land .Try and consider to sign some big player that can make impact in our up coming season .
    The Prof take heart ,you are a good manager and i believe in you .
    Guys Don’t let this trauma way you down ,wake up and shock manchester united at their backyard this weekend .i pray we shall fall the red devil .

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