Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Sunday January 7 2007
Merseyside Police revealed a 26 year old man named Steven Gerrard was reported missing at around 5.15pm yesterday evening. Around 44,000 witnesses have corroborated that he was last seen perched snugly in Gilberto Silva's top pocket. Police are questioning Theo Walcott in connection with the incident, who is thought to be to blame for the whole sorry affair.
Can this fallacy stop yet? An Arsenal midfield shorn of its composer outshone Gerrard consummately. Perhaps when we come back on Tuesday with the kiddywinks Mr. Gerrard will be able to have an effect on a game involving quality opponents. In all solemnity I really had a good feeling about yesterday, in fact I remarked to my mates on the journey that I had the same gut feeling I had on the way up to Old Trafford in September.
But before I commence with my report I would like to express my full and heartfelt backing for the Liverpool Truth campaign. Mr. McKenzie owes the city of Liverpool a full and frank apology, not to mention a large donation to the Hillsbrough fund. I have always felt newspapers to be untrustworthy, slimy propaganda pamphlets. But McKenzie's affront to the gravestones of 96 people with the aim of flogging a few more copies of his publication (whose name I will not honour) with a tissue of lies is a disgrace. Liverpool's six minute card protest (photos will be provided in a separate article) and the 'Justice For The 96' chants bought mutual applause from all sides of the ground. May justice be administered soon, its already been seventeen years too long.
Onto the game and I felt Liverpool, spurred on by a rumbustuous crowd, dominated the opening exchanges. Kuyt looked as kinetic as ever and Crouch's height (not his skill mind) appeared to create panic in the back four and Luis Garcia and Alonso looked ravenous. But the important factor was that we held our nerve and did not make any mistakes at the back. This is something we have persistently failed to do this season. In prohibiting Liverpool from any strikes on goal, we were allowed to grow into the game and the effect on the younger players was palpable. Senderos became dogged and erstwhile, covering his defenders and throwing his body at anything that dare lay siege on the virginity of our goal. Eboue and Clichy got a grip on the game (though marking Pennant is a bit like sitting on a beanbag, you know its not going anywhere). In turn, Gilberto began to pull the strings and prevent Gerrard's surging runs, forcing him further and further back. I agree fully with Wingston75 that Flamini was awesome, his usual industry was there, but he did not allow himself to be outmuscled, getting vital tackles in and his display was a picture of gritty resolve.
As well as resolute defending, the other key factor was our clinical finishing and Little Mozart exemplified this better than most. Nobody likes to pontificate on patterns of play and the dynamics of a game more than myself, but ultimately its about scoring goals and not conceding them. My favourite footballing quote ever emanated from the great Brian Clough, 'football is a simple game made complicated by idiots.' Tommy Gunn's first effort was a precise a dipping shot from Hleb's pullback. I was at the other end of the ground, but even with the shackles of perspective, I felt Dudek was far too far off his line. The Anfield Road End errupted in pandemonium. The Gunners grew in confidence and a second arrived right on half time, Rosicky cut in from the left and hit a low shot past Dudek, who was again slow to get to the ground. The 5,000 strong Gooner contingent again writhed ecstatically and as the half time whistle blew, the concourse was full of beer and song (again, photos in another article).
The second half was predictable, Liverpool went all out, hoofing the ball to Crouch and Kuyt at every opportunity and pressing the Gunners way back into their own half. But led by Swiss Tony, Arsenal repelled the Reds attacks. When Benitez threw Fabio Aurelio on we knew that we would be bombarded with crosses given the Brazilian's cute left foot. Sure enough, the goal arrived as Dirk Kuyt flicked in a corner from close range. Delight turned to anxiety in the Anfield Road End as the expected onslaught materialised. But for all Liverpool's huff and puff, there was no end product. Looking at the comments on other threads I find it unbelievable that people think we were lucky. During the second half Liverpool registered two shots on target (the second of which arrived in injury time). But it was left to the skipper to step up to the plate to destroy Liverpool's hopes.
Henry flicked the ball around Carragher and initially I was amazed that Carragher had outpaced him (in retrospect, match fitness was more than likely the culprit). But Henry would not give it up, with the clock running down Carragher sought to retain the ball but Henry, with rottweiler tenacity, robbed him and cut in to beat Dudek. I have been critical of Thierry's scoring record in these sorts of games and I hope that this marks a watershed. I think that two months ago Henry would have given up the chase. He looked fatigued, insipid and unmotivated. I believe this enforced rest has given him the time to alleviate his aches and pains, while the form of van Persie and Adebayor has filled him with the requisite motivation to compete for our unwavering affection once again. Please Thierry, come May I want to submit a grovelling retraction of my criticisms.
A few impressions as a spectator. Firstly, this is the kind of Arsenal performance I love. The world and his pet Spud knows we are capable of sublime football, heaven born radiance and intricate passing. But I love it when the Arsenal go away, dig into the trenches and prosper against all the odds. This match reminded me of the Quarter Final replay at Stamford Bridge nearly four years ago. When we actually only registered two shots on target (one of our three goals was a delightful John Terry effort), but by that token Chelsea only had one. In fact, the similarities are uncanny, 2-0 up at half time, pegged back to two one, before suring the result as the result of a goalkeeping error (Lauren on that occasion). The radio phone in on the way home, hosted by Liverpool fan Alan Green, was full of how disgusting our antics were, particularly Eboue. The listeners and presenters of Radio Five Live were not fooled by the fact he went off injured, no, because he dived appallingly. Apparently, according to some Scousers, who all pointed out they were not bad losers, we were overly aggressive and resorted to strong arm tactics and diving!!!! So seven days previous at Bramall Lane, Chris Morgan's Tyson impression was stern British grit and Jagielka had called us babies. Now all of a sudden we are thugs!!! Alan Green, congratulations, you have earned the rank ****! In the words of a Norwegian commentator, your boys took one hell of a beating. DEAL WITH IT.
Of course Mr. Green neglected to mention Pennant's stamp on Clichy, the fact that it was Xabi Alonso who had been booked for diving and the that Luis Garcia spent so much time on his arse I thought he was waiting for a gimp mask and a pair of stilettos! Pennant earned himself further infamy by kissing his Liverpool badge in front of the Arsenal fans as he journeyed to take a corner. An act befitting of the lack of class this individual holds. The Arsenal fans responded with typical vigour, 'Ashley's boyfriend' and 'Car Keys to Pennant' they remarked with customary irony fastened to their tongues. But the best chant came minutes into the game. You all know I am loathe to have a pop at national hero and Walcott victim Steven Gerrard MBE (!!!), but in the opening minutes he charged through the centre, Kuyt in acres to his right, Crouch in acres to his left, predictably he unleashed a tame shot. The chant from the Arsenal fans, 'Where were you in Germany?' It seems the Gooners are aware of his fraudulent legend, will the rest of the world wake up to it I wonder? LD.
UPDATE... THOSE OF YOU WISHING TO SEE PHOTOS I TOOK YESTERDAY (INCLUDING ONE OF MY UGLY MUG), CLICK ON THE FORUM AND GO TO ALBUMS AND HAVE A GANDER AT THE LITTLE DUTCH FOLDER. ENJOY.
Date:Sunday January 7 2007
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