'Intense' Arsenal hang on to exact revenge on Liverpool
Gunners have the last laugh as they knock Reds out of FA Cup despite huge penalty claim
Arsenal 2 Liverpool 1. Arsenal exacted a thrilling revenge on Liverpool by knocking the Merseysiders out of the FA Cup and setting up a quarter-final showdown with Everton. It was a breathtaking match, one that neither side deserved to lose, but it was the Reds who left the Emirates empty-handed just eight days after humiliating Arsenal 5-1 in the league.
Liverpool now have nothing to play for this season except in the Premier League while Arsenal are still fighting on three fronts. In a little over 48 hours the Gunners host Bayern Munich in their last 16 Champions League confrontation and if that tie is even half as good as Sunday's encounter, supporters are in for another treat.
"The intensity of the performance pleased me," declared Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. "I am very proud of the way we responded to the huge defeat that we had [at Anfield] last week."
Liverpool had all the early possession and should have been two up within five minutes, But whereas last week Martin Skrtel made no mistake with his opportunities, on Sunday Daniel Sturridge lacked a killer touch close-in. First Lukasz Fabianski saved well when the striker found himself on a one-on-one and moments later he blasted wide with the goal at his mercy after a sweet pass from Luis Suarez.
How Arsenal punished his profligacy. With their first meaningful attack on 16 minutes Mesut Ozil picked out Yaya Sanogo and the young French striker – one of seven changes to the Arsenal side that lost 5-1 last week – had his shot blocked by Steven Gerrard. But the rebound landed at the feet of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who fired home from ten yards and the Emirates erupted.
Two minutes after the break Arsenal doubled their advantage and again Ozil was the creator. This time the German midfielder, heavily criticised of late for his recent performances, picked out Oxlade-Chamberlain and his cut-back from the right was hammered past Brad Jones by Lukas Podolski.
Liverpool were stunned, but only temporarily, and 12 minutes later they reduced Arsenal's lead after Suarez was felled in the box by a reckless challenge from Podolski. Gerrard made no mistake from the spot, and suddenly Liverpool scented blood.
They should have had another penalty seven minutes later but somehow referee Howard Webb decided that Oxlade-Chamberlain's barge on Suarez was legitimate. Quite how he missed the incident is a mystery, but the extravagance with which Suarez hurled himself to the floor, flapping around on the turf life a freshly caught salmon, may actually have counted against him.
For the rest of the game Liverpool pressed hard for the equaliser but the Gunners' defence held firm. Fabianski made one sensational save at the feet of Sturridge and, despite making a terrible hash of a cross late on, looked solid in the Arsenal goal.
"Especially after the result away, we knew we had to turn it around and put in a display," said Oxlade-Chamberlain. "My goal got us off to a good start [and] we did well to keep it together and hold on." Asked if thought his challenge on Suarez should have resulted in a second Liverpool penalty, he replied: "There are penalty shouts in most games. You just have to worry about the ones that are given and thankfully that one didn't."
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers was understandably less sanguine, saying of the incident: "It was probably more clear and blatant than the first... it was certainly a clear penalty." He added: "The best team lost. I thought the very least we deserved was a replay. We probably should have been 2-0 up inside those first six or seven minutes. Going forward we were outstanding. I'm disappointed."
Quarter-final draw in full:
Arsenal v Everton
Brighton & Hove Albion or Hull City v Sunderland
Sheffield United v Sheffield Wednesday or Charlton Athletic
Manchester City v Wigan Athletic
All ties are scheduled to be played on 8 and 9 March.