Arsenal 2 (Chamberlain 15, Podolski 47) – 1 Liverpool (Gerrard (pen) 59)
Man of the Match - Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal)
With an air of revenge hinging around the Emirates, Liverpool visited the Emirates a week after mauling Arsenal 5-1 in the league, and were duly knocked out of the FA Cup by Arsenal.
Arsene Wenger made several changes to the squad which faced the Reds on the humiliating afternoon at Anfield last week. Carl Jenkinson started, while Nacho Monreal replaced Kieran Gibbs, who started against Manchester United in midweek. Lukasz Fabianski replaced Wojciech Szczesny in goal. Mathieu Flamini started after serving his 3 match ban. Mesut Ozil kept his place, and was joined by compatriot Lukas Podolski, in form midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Yaya Sanogo, making his first full start for the club.
Liverpool, like last week started on the front foot, and almost took the lead in the 2nd minute, when Daniel Sturridge escaped the attentions of Arsenal’s defenders, but his shot was saved by the legs of Lukasz Fabianski. Sturridge had another great chance, just moments later, when he rounded off Fabianski, but his right footed effort could only find the side netting.
On the other end, Yaya Sanogo was looking to have an impact of his own on his first start for Arsenal. The match evened up a bit, and Arsenal struck first. A free kick from Mikel Arteta was cleared out by Liverpool, but fell straight to Ozil, who played the ball back in the crowd. Sanogo chested the ball down, and shot towards goal, but it rebounded off Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard, falling kindly for Chamberlain, who netted past Brad Jones to make it 1-0 to the hosts.
After opening the scoring, Arsenal were happy to absorb pressure, as Liverpool attacked using their dribble quartet of Sturridge, Coutinho, Sterling and Suarez. However, Arsenal’s backline was doing an impressive job of keeping one of the league’s most fearsome attacks at bay. The game started getting a bit stretched, as Monreal, Coutinho, Flannagan and Flamini all picked up yellow cards.
Lukas Podolski had a great chance to score, when he was set up by Ozil, but he completely miscued his effort, the ball sailing into the stands. Gerrard picked up the 5th yellow card of the first half, for a challenge on Chamberlain. Luis Suarez was forced to take shots from outside the area, but came up against an impressive Fabianski. Raheem Sterling, meanwhile, was making inroads into Arsenal’s penalty area, with his pace, but unable to create a real goal scoring opportunity. He escaped a yellow card, when he gave Howard Webb a slight nudge, following a tussle with Carl Jenkinson. The first half ended with Arsenal leading by a goal.
The second half started in similar fashion as the first, with Liverpool creating the first chance. Luis Suarez found space in the Arsenal area, but failed to get past an inspired Fabianski. Arsenal struck moments later, when Mesut Ozil delightfully released Chamberlain on the right, and the England winger set up Podolski with a perfectly weighted pass. The German made no mistake to finish past Australia international Brad Jones. Arsenal were leading 2-0 against their tormentors.
The game then became a flurry of chances, as first Suarez shot just over the bar, with Fabianski unable to get a hand, while Mesut Ozil should have probably done better having been set up by Podolski, but his shot was saved by Jones. On the other end, Sturridge created space, but his effort was saved by Fabianski. Then, Liverpool got a penalty, when Podolski kicked Suarez in the back, and the Uruguyan, as usual, theatrically made most of it. Steven Gerrard made no mistake from the spot, and the deficit was halved.
Liverpool created more chances, and should have equalized when Sturridge was 1 on 1 with Fabianski, but the Pole made a brilliant save from the feet of the England striker. Arsenal were lucky to escape punishment, when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain felled Luis Suarez in the penalty box. Probably, his over-theatrical reaction was a turn-off for Howard Webb.
Suarez was still looking sharp, but had another shot saved by Fabianski. Lukas Podolski came off for Santi Cazorla, who was immediately presented with a chance. He had enough time and space to score, but inexplicably skied the ball.
Steven Gerrard should have picked up a second yellow card for a crude challenge on Chamberlain, but stayed on the pitch, before Chamberlain was replaced by left back Kieran Gibbs. Liverpool were presented with more opportunities to equalize, first off a Koscielny mistake, which Suarez failed to capitalize on. And then, the brilliant Fabianski made his first mistake of the game when he came off the line to clear a Gerrard free kick, but Daniel Agger headed narrowly wide, with the goal gaping in the 87th minute.
Yaya Sanogo cheekily looked over the bench, to waste some time, as he came off to a warm round of applause from the home crowd. Olivier Giroud, who earlier apologized on Twitter for his recent getaway came on. Daniel Sturridge tried to speed up the proceedings as he offered Fabianski some assistance in tying laces. Arsenal held on for the 2-1 win.
A difficult week, which started with a heavy defeat at the hands of Liverpool, ends with us knocking Liverpool from the FA Cup. It wasn’t the greatest of performances, but Arsenal showed flashes of what they are capable of. Mesut Ozil, anonymous last week, was hugely influential, in drawing Liverpool’s defenders towards him, and creating chances for others. Yaya Sanogo had a good debut for a League 2 striker, and 5 months injured. He came up against the gigantic defensive partnership of Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger, and while he did have a few clumsy moments, he was impressive overall.
Lukas Podolski seems to score everytime he starts/comes on, and is now hopeful of a start against former club Bayern Munich, against whom he scored last season in a 3-1 loss. Just another day in the office for Mathieu Flamini, as he picked up a yellow card. At the back, Monreal was the most impressive, and dealt with attacks on his flank well. Koscielny and Mertesacker were solid as ever, while Jenkinson acquitted himself well.
A special mention to Lukasz Fabianski, who made several saves on the night, many of which seemed like they were going in. He may not get too many starts from now till the end of the season, but will keep his place in the FA Cup.
Arsenal next face Everton, at home on 8th March. So, that makes it 3 Premier League clubs already. Not an easy season in the cup, but you have to beat the best to win trophies. The only other really strong contender is Manchester City, who knocked Chelsea out with a 2-0 win.
Arsenal next face the defending European champions, and probably the strongest football team on the planet right now, on Wednesday night in the Champions League. Despite the scores being level at 3-3 last season, after a valiant 2-0 win at the Allianz Arena, Arsenal were undone by the away goals rule.
Bayern are still at it, bludgeoning oppositions across Germany and Europe, and definitely will be the toughest game of the season for Arsenal. But, it will be a test of character for the Gunners, who have generally remained consistent throughout the season, and also a chance to extract revenge!
Hah! Revenge! Goodbye, Liverpool!
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