Goals from Fran Merida and Nicklas Bendtner saw Arsenal edge past Liverpool in an entertaining encounter in the Carling Cup.
Arsene Wenger was reluctant to let Fran Merida go out on loan and the Spanish youngster repaid his manager’s confidence by turning out a magical performance against Liverpool.
Playing as a “half winger” on the left side of the forward three, Merida’s movement was a constant thorn in Liverpool’s backline as he pulled out and dropped into space. And for the opener, he popped up on the right hand side, taking full advantage of Andriy Voronin’s lax pass to powerfully lash home from the edge of the box. Nicklas Bendtner hit the winner five minutes after the restart, nipping the ball away from Skrtel before firing under the roof of the net.
Arsenal’s movement at speed was particularly breathtaking and for the first half hour, Liverpool seemed like they had no answer. A swift attack involving Ramsey, Eduardo and Bendtner saw the Dane fail to provide the final touch to a flowing breakaway. Merida could have got a second towards the end of the first half in an attack which started from Kerrea Gilbert at right back ended with the Spaniard chipping over Diego Cavalieri.
But Liverpool also sought to punish Arsenal for leaving such gaps through their expansive style and when the Gunners did push forward and pressure the defence high, the full backs found space to get up the pitch. And indeed it was Emiliano Insua who found himself outside the box with little to no pressure and the Argentine left back struck a dipping volley over Lucasz Fabianksi. Degen on the other side had similar joy as he got forward with much frequency, creating much danger with his unmarked runs. The wide channels are the areas where the battle is increasingly won and lost and Liverpool’s attacking play certainly owed much to their adventurous full backs.
The way Arsenal coped with the pressure from Liverpool after going in front showed their real character and Eastmond and Gilbert in particular came out with flying colours considering the pair’s differing situations. As was the case last Carling Cup campaign, the defence was the basis for a strong attacking show and Phillipe Senderos and Mikael Silvestre did to their best to provide a calming assurance to the young custodians in front of them. “I believe that the experience of the two centre-backs was important at vital moments of the game,” said Wenger. “And of course going forward we had some good players as well up front and that made a difference.”
Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool: Merida 19, Insua 26, Bendtner 50.
Arsenal (4-1-2-3) Fabianski (7); Gilbert (8), Senderos (7), Silvestre (7), Gibbs (7); Eastmond (8) (Randall); Ramsey (7), Nasri (7); Bendtner (7) (Watt), Eduardo (6), Merida (8)* (Coquelin).
Subs not used: Szczesny, Bartley, Frimpong, Sunu.
Liverpool (4-2-3-1) Cavalieri; Degen (Eccleston), Skrtel, Kyrgiakos, Insua; Spearing, Plessis (Aquilani); Kuyt, Voronin, Babel; Ngog (Benayoun).
Subs: Reina, Darby, Dossena, Ayala.
Referee Alan Wiley (Staffordshire)
|1||1st Half Goals||1|
|4||Shots on Target||4|
|5||Shots off Target||6|