UEFA Champions League QF 2nd Leg – April 8th 2008 – Result
Liverpool 4 Arsenal 2 (Agg: 5-3)
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard (speaking to ITV): “That was possibly one of the worst performances I’ve ever put in in a Liverpool shirt, but I still had the confidence to score the penalty.
“That’s up there with them (previous big nights at Anfield) Arsenal are a fantastic team. A times today, they passed us of the pitch. In the end we’ve come through, it was a great team performance tonight.”
Asked if Liverpool deserved to win: “It’s difficult to say because it would be unfair on Arsenal, but over two legs, as I’ve said before, we’re a match for anyone. If those fans perform like that, it’s a big help to us and other teams find it impossible.
“We’ve got some big games coming up but we’ll be ready for Chelsea.”
Scorer of fourth and killer goal Ryan Babel: “They (the fans) pulled out another level. It’s like you play with 12 men.”
Was it a penalty? “They held me a little bit and they tried to take a chunk of me. I had a feeling to create something. If they take that away from me then I think it’s a penalty.”
Liverpool Manager Rafael Benitez: “We were losing, we drew and afterwards we were losing again. We knew we need to work really hard and try and do the right things. At the end of the day, you must win, and we won.
“I think the key was the belief of the players, particularly in the second half. We had been so poor before the break, but so much better in the second period. In the first half we were really bad but when we scored we had belief and began to show our quality.
“I think they had some players who played in the final two years ago, so they had experience but we also had players with experience. For me the difference was the belief. I was disappointed with the way they scored but after I was very, very happy with the character of the players and the way they responded.
“Sometimes the small details can make a difference and it was a good penalty from Steven Gerrard and it was really positive for us, I was thinking about bringing on Voronin because we needed more power and more offensive players but then we got the penalty so I brought on Arbeloa instead. Babel made a difference because we needed pace and ability and Torres was getting tired so we used Babel’s pace up front.
“You could see Arsenal played well in the first-half, there were six goals and it was fantastic to win such a great game. Everyone is really happy and I am pleased for our fans. It’s always important for us to play in front of our supporters and you could hear from the start of the game, they were amazing and massive for the players.
“When we went to 2-2 so near the end, my players showed tremendous character and desire to get up off the ground to win the tie.”
Starting with both Torres and Crouch was a surprise, but Rafa explained his reasoning: “We knew he had scored a hat-trick against Arsenal. After the other day when he had scored and played really well, he was a threat, so I was trying to take advantage of the strengths of our team with Torres playing off Crouch in the air as well as Gerrard and Kuyt. They are four offensive players who can score goals for us.
“I hear Steven Gerrard has said it was a poor game by him, but I was satisfied. He scored a crucially important penalty for us when it really mattered, that was positive from him to take it so well.
“Now we have Chelsea again in the semi-final. My first idea is we will try to enjoy today and then after we will think about Chelsea. It will be a tough, tough tie that’s for sure, against an excellent side. But like tonight, we have enough experience of such matches and clearly the belief to succeed again.
Arsenal’s manager Arsene Wenger: “I believe it (their elimination from the competition) is down to a dodgy decision from the referee and a lack of concentration at 2-2. It is difficult to swallow. It is a double disappointment because all the big decisions went against us and with three minutes to go we were qualified.
“It is very difficult for me to understand because for me it was not a penalty. I have watched it clearly again. Last week it was a real penalty. But we have to accept that.
“We were too naive, we lacked a bit of maturity defensively. We had so much control. The mental strength of the team was fantastic tonight. It was down to lack of experience. This team has plenty of talent and potential but we lacked that little bit of extra confidence.
“Tonight we have a feeling of disappointment and injustice.”
Liverpool: 25 Reina, 23 Carragher, 37 Skrtel, 4 Hyypia, 12 Aurelio, 8 Gerrard, 14 Alonso, 20 Mascherano, 18 Kuyt (17 Arbeloa, 90), 9 Torres (6 Riise, 87), 15 Crouch (19 Babel, 78)
Unused subs: 30 Itandje, 10 Voronin, 11 Benayoun, 21 Lucas
Goals: Hyypia 30, Torres 69, Gerrard 86 (pen), Babel 90
Arsenal: 24 Almunia, 5 Toure, 10 Gallas, 6 Senderos, 22 Clichy, 27 Eboue (32 Walcott, 72), 16 Flamini (19 Silva, 42), 4 Fabregas, 2 Diaby (11 Van Persie, 72), 13 Hleb, 25 Adebayor
Unused subs: 1 Lehmann, 17 Song Billong, 26 Bendtner, 31 Hoyte
Bookings: Senderos 17, Toure 85
Goals: Diaby 13, Adebayor 84
Stats (Liverpool – Arsenal)
Possession: 52% – 48%
Shots on target: 8 – 5
Shots off target: 5 – 2
Corners: 5 – 2
Fouls: 10 – 7
Possession: 51% – 49%
Shots on Target: 6 – 3
Shots off Target: 5 – 2
Blocked Shots: 7 – 4
Corners: 5 – 2
Fouls: 10 – 8
Referee: Peter Frojdfeldt