By Randy Osae
With this season’s away outfit signifying the 20th anniversary of 1989’s remarkable title grasp at Liverpool, tonight had been marked on the calendar well ahead.
A somehow deflated and suitably fourth-placed Arsenal managed to commemorate the occasion with a night to remember at Anfield through a virtuoso Arshavin.
The Russian’s quadruple of goals were matched by a resilient Liverpool, but it was a theatrical evening on Merseyside nonetheless.
Arsenal could not have found a more irrelevant fixture this season. Their tight fourth place security is unchanged and not much ground has been made up on third.
But they might have found a way to put Saturday’s distress well behind.
Chelsea had taken a lot out of Wenger’s men and as expected, Liverpool exploited the little they had left.
Torres, Riera, and Mascherano were all at the go before Fabregas chalked down Arsenal’s first try on 28 minutes.
Silvestre had to scramble the ball away after Torres nutmegged Toure to test Fabianski. Nasri then cleared off the mouth of his goal after Agger’s header proved dangerous.
Liverpool had been bossing until Arsenal hit them well against the run of play.
Nasri and Fabregas worked the ball on the right before the latter released a low pass for Arshavin to tap home with his weaker foot.
Arshavin then completed the first of his ‘finger on lips’ gestures to mark that goal as the infuriated Kop urged a response from the reds. And they got a swift one too.
Benayoun alerted Fabianski with half-time looming before his desperate side leveled right after the restart.
But Wenger could argue his men could have remained ahead for much longer. After all, a dully handled cross met by Torres to beat Fabianski was preventable. Arsenal could barely breath now as Liverpool sought the initiative to relieve their title ambitions.
And it only took a handful of minutes before a sandwich of Toure, Benayoun and Sagna bundled Kuyt’s cross past the goal line with Fabianski hesitant to concede with a false clearance.
Just like three days ago, Arsenal had fallen victims of a comeback having scored first, but with half an hour still to be played, Wenger opted to save the blushes tonight with Denilson sacrificed for a more audacious Walcott.
But it would be a Russian to do the trick. Arshavin stole the ball from 25 yards out and drilled in a stunner with Reina full-stretched. Indeed, he had saved his rampancy for tonight and netted a third after Carragher and Arbeloa were slacking right in no man’s land.
Arshavin had ran the show upfront and when he turned his back – to teammates in defense – Liverpool hit back.
It was typical Liverpool and trademark Torres. The Spaniard benefited from yet another cross, made light of Silvestre and thumped past Fabianski.
Then, it was up for grabs now – as an announcer 20 years back would reckon – with Torres seeing his goal-bound header negated by Gibbs before Andrey Arshavin stroke again.
This one was very Arsenal-esque though.
The Gunners broke off a tempting Liverpool corner with Walcott the road runner. And half-way near the reds’ territory, Walcott handed over to Arshavin who could hardly hesitate to whip a left-footed finish past Reina.
That seemed to have stilled the merry-go-round of events before Benayoun capped a fair night by punishing yet another diabolical moment in Arsenal’s defense from about 10 yards out.
The point impacts Arsenal’s season less and perhaps this one was just for the neutrals’ entertainment.