Unbelievable tension at Anfield will never be forgotten

April 9, 2008

Benitez and Wenger

Liverpool’s rivalry with Arsenal now involves 202 matches dating back to 1893 and Tuesday’s Champions League quarter-final will, for the neutral, forever rank among the greatest of them all.

Arsenal fans will never forget Michael Thomas’s last kick of the season goal at Anfield in 1989 which gave them, and not Liverpool, the title.

They’ve never forgotten Charlie George’s blistering shot and celebratory lie-down at Wembley which secured the FA Cup and League double in 1971 either.

Likewise Liverpool fans will always remember Michael Owen’s two late goals that transformed the 2001 FA Cup final and gave Liverpool a 2-1 win over the Gunners at Cardiff when all seemed lost.

But although there was no prize at stake — apart from a place in the Champions League semi-finals of course — I have rarely witnessed such UNRELENTING tension as there was at Anfield for 90 minutes which helped turn Tuesday’s match into an instant classic.

With the teams tied at 1-1 from the first leg — and with Saturday’s 1-1 Premier League draw at the Emirates merely adding to the occasion — there had to be a winner on Tuesday and the away goals rule played a huge part in the agony and ecstacy.

Arsenal set the tone from the kick off playing some brilliantly inspired football which led to three scoring chances inside the first nine minutes — all of which were annulled by the offside flag. That didn’t phase them. They carried on looking for the goal they had to score and once they got it after 13 minutes, the stakes were raised.

Liverpool had to score and did but even when they were 2-1 ahead on the night and 3-2 up on aggregate, they could not relax because another Arsenal goal would put the Londoners ahead on aways goals.

When it came Anfield was silenced. Arsenal were almost through. The Kop was stunned. It took a lot of nerve for Steven Gerrard to take and score the penalty that put Liverpool back in front a minute later … but even then Liverpool were not safe.

Another Arsenal goal meant they would be on top again. At that stage, with more than five minutes still to play, Liverpool fans were literally screaming in agony at Swedish referee Peter Frojdfeldt to blow for time.

It wasn’t until substitute Ryan Babel scored in the 90th minute to end all of Arsenal’s hopes that the issue was beyond doubt. Ninety minutes of unrelenting drama and tension were over. The football wasn’t bad either.

Mike Collett, Reuters soccer correspondent

PHOTO: Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger gestures as Liverpool’s Rafa Benitez watches their Champions League quarter-final second leg match. April 8 REUTERS/Giampiero Sposito


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Surely time to introduce video playbacks so referees don’t make these kind of mistakes (Babbel penalty). Three minutes to get a decision right which can define a club’s entire season? C’mon – it’s a no-brainer now, isn’t it?

Posted by Jon Bramley | Report as abusive

Not a bad game at all. I’m not a big football fan, but I watched through to the end. Arsenal can be upset by the penalty decision, but Babel should never have got that close to the penalty area in the first place.

Posted by Joe RYAN | Report as abusive

I found the two key referreing decisions in the tie quite refreshing.

In the first leg Kuyt clearly pulled back Hleb. However Hleb proceeded to perform the modern day professionals oft used trick of collapsing his legs and pirouetting. My guess is that the ref was looking at the players legs rather than torso’s so missed the pull back and as there was no leg contact could not give the penalty.

Babel, on the other hand, is not a seasoned pro. It is clear that the Arsenal defender (Toure?) ran through the back of Babel. A Seasoned pro would try to exaggerate the contact, collapse his legs, pirouette and fall over. Babel tried to continue and ended falling down rather like Bambi on ice.

Posted by Jim | Report as abusive

There’s a temptation to exaggerate things but this really was a great match and I can’t imagine a better advert for the premier league. best tie since maybe deportivo coruna’s incredible comeback against milan in 2004. that was when the spanish league was tops. not so any more.

Posted by Luc | Report as abusive

You should read what the Spanish press have been saying about it. Aside from the fact that they think it was just about the best match that they have ever seen, they seem just about ready to ship the rest of the best players in Spain over to the premiership if it gets them playing ith the kind of passion and commitment on show last night. “The recipe for success at the euros” is how one paper has covered it, demanding that the Spanish premiership based players take over the coaching of the national team in June. Just think – in his current form, Fernando Torres could guide Spain as far as the semis instead of the quarter finals for a change.

Posted by Lee | Report as abusive

Hi Lee. I remember blogging about this when I was back in Spain over Christmas. The amount of interest in the Premier League at that time blew me away. It was obviously partly to do with the fact that there’s a break in Spain at that time, but it was clear enough that the Spanish media were getting hooked on the Premier League, which they looked down on from a great height when I lived there from 1998 to 2004.

Posted by Kevin Fylan | Report as abusive