EPL 2005: Day 36 (Arsenal 3 – Liverpool 1)

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
May 8th, 2005 • 7:45 am

It was a game of two very different halves. In the first one, after a bit of a slow start, Arsenal beat Liverpool in every area and the visitors were indeed lucky to be only two goals down at the break. Then Benitez substituted a couple of players, but he also must have given the team an earful, because the entire complexion of the game was changed.

To be true, the Gunners were probably guilty of taking the foot off the gas pedal a bit — and Liverpool were rather fortunate to get their goal through a big Fabregas deflection. But after that goal the Arsenal defence looked rather shaky and Liverpool had most of possession and chances. Senderos had a good game, but Touré looked rather hesitant and Lehmann didn’t help. He had a couple of decent saves, but that was on an action where the whistle had already blown for off-side.

Fortunately, Cissé and Kewell were unable to convert the half-chances they had.

Bergkamp and Edu came on, but were rather ineffective… until the last minute, that is, when Bergkamp and Fabregas combined superbly to finish off the visitors. The Dutchman’s little touch was beautiful — and then the Spaniard matched it with a terrific control and the coolest finish. What a goal!

This victory handed Everton the 4th spot in the league, which was already almost certainly theirs thanks to their victory against Newcastle yesterday. If Liverpool win the Champions’ League now — and you wouldn’t put it past them, even though it would not be an accurate reflection of the objective quality of the team — then the controversy that’s been brewing will reach massive proportions. The winner of the CL has no guaranteed spot in the following year’s competition. It has to qualify like any other team with a top-four finish. Liverpool have failed to achieve this. What will happen? Nobody seems to know. Objectively, the team doesn’t deserve to qualify for next year’s competition. They have just been too poor in the domestic league. Fourteen defeats!

This Arsenal victory also guarantees that they’ll finish second in the league this season. (I think there’s still a small mathematical chance for Manchester, but it would involve Arsenal losing the next two, Manchester winning the next two — including the one against Chelsea — and scoring something like 11 goals in two games. Rather unlikely, we shall say.

The penalty gifted to West Brom yesterday was rather harsh on Manchester, but on the other hand they failed to convert their domination into goals, which is always a problem. They only got a controversial goal themselves with a quickly-taken free kick similar to the one that Thierry Henry took against Chelsea earlier in the season (with the same referee in charge!).

But then, what shall we say about the penalty handed to Chelsea on a silver platter against Charlton? It was a blatant dive — by Player of the Year Frank Lampard, no less — and the offence (if there was one) was outside the box… If this doesn’t force Mike Riley into early retirement, I don’t know what will. (He’s had a horrible season.) What’s for sure is that he won’t get any death threats from the Chelsea fans! It was a gift, pure and simple. While Chelsea deserve to be champions on the whole, this particular situation illustrated once again something that’s been true throughout the season in the league: they have had a lot of luck. They might have been champions without this luck, but it would have been a much tighter race.

Oh well. Some of this is comforting for next season — although it’s still quite clear that the Gunners need a new keeper and can’t really afford to lose Ashley Cole…

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