Sunday, 17 April 2011

So Close But Then So Far

Arsenal threw away a golden chance at catching Man United this afternoon, wasting a 1-0 lead against Liverpool by needlessly giving away a late penalty, which Dirk Kuyt converted to make it 1-1 after 100 minutes had passed on the clock. Thanks to yet another draw at home, this result has pretty much all but confirmed that its United's title to lose now. Arsenal's title challenge is dead in the water now, and unless Ferguson's Manchester side has a complete meltdown, the Gunner's dreams of a trophy have come to an abrupt end.

This was a crazy game that had plenty of typical Arsenal stuff in it; we dominated possession for the majority of the game and, as per usual, tried to score that perfect (and elusive) goal. We constantly tried to thread the needle today, always trying to walk the ball in the net. I just wish our players would have a crack at goal more often, rather than pussy-foot around the edge of the box like they normally do, and finally give the ball away. It is the latter that we witnessed more of today, much to the fan's frustration. Despite Liverpool having to field a pretty weakened side, we couldn't capitalise on their weaknesses at all. We had a great chance of beating Dalglish's squad today, as the injuries mounted up during the game when Aurelio and Carragher were both forced to leave the field, yet we still couldn't force any real threats on that depleted defence. Carragher's injury was particularly bad and he had to be stretchered from the pitch - it was this delay that caused the officials to rule for 8 minutes of injury time to be played. It was during those 8 minutes when things got interesting.

With only a minute or so left with the score still 0-0, with Arsenal knocking on the door and really trying to force a chance, captain Fabregas got tripped in the box and the ref instantly pointed to the spot for a penalty. The Gooner faithful celebrated at the decision, and went ballistic when Robin van Persie put it in the left corner to make it 1-0. Game over, surely? However, from the restart Liverpool tried an audacious shot at Szczesny from the half way line, which the Polish keeper reacted to and stopped what could have been a stunning goal. But surely thats it now, right? Somehow, some way, Liverpool regained possession and after some sloppy defending, were awarded a free kick right on the edge of the penalty box. Arsenal were pretty lucky actually, as some refs may have judged the foul to have been in the box and awarded a spot-kick. Now by this time, we are in the 99th minute and the game should be over, whistle blown and three crucial points in Arsenal's hands. But Liverpool were awarded the time to take their free kick and Suarez, so close to goal, had no choice but to thump it at the wall and hope a deflection carried it goalwards. Suarez's free-kick did hit the wall and spilled out to the left where Lucas and Eboue gave chase and this is where things got ridiculous. The second that ball pinged off of the Arsenal wall, the referee Andre Marriner should have blown the final whistle as we were now well over the allotted time added on to the original 90 - the game had overrun by about three minutes or so. But Eboue clumsily battled with Lucas for the loose ball, which Lucas milked for all it was worth and went down very easily, but it was enough for Marriner to be fooled and he awarded a penalty. I was furious that the game was still being played, and Dirk Kuyt made things worse when he squeezed the ball past Szczesny to make it 1-1 with the final kick of the game. Marriner blew the whistle immediately and consequently ended Arsenal's title hopes for good.

Now I'm not going to crucify Eboue for making that stupid mistake, everybody messes up, but he will not escape the blame for this one. Even if Lucas collected that ball and got it under control, he was still in a pretty harmless position with his back to goal. Eboue just needed to watch his man and shield him away from creating anything dangerous - instead Lucas leads him into making a stupid mistake and costing Arsenal any chance of winning a trophy this year. Another mistake, more punishment, and the Gunner's cruel season of blunders and costly errors continues. I'm just fed up that this team with so much talent and skill can continue to fuck up when it really matters - things just have not gone our way this year.

Our next game is against Tottenham on Wednesday at White Hart Lane. After taking a licking from Madrid, the Spuds will be keen to rebound against their rivals and I would really like to get revenge on them for that 2-3 calamity at the Emirates earlier this season. So fingers crossed we can get a result and Man U fuck up somewhere along the road, but at the moment I can't see that happening and I just hope Chelsea and Man City don't leapfrog us over the next few weeks.

Thanks for reading.

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