Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Arsenal v Liverpool battle was overshadowed by error-prone Howard Webb

Liverpool's Luis Suarez falls in agony after being challenged by Arsenal's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

It was an FA Cup thriller. As good as the last match at the Emirates was bad. If Arsenal's scoreless draw with Manchester United in the Premier League was dross, yesterday's clash between the Gunners and Liverpool was a delight to watch.

Two teams dripping with desire went at it hammer and tongs for 90 compelling minutes of football, which ended with a crucial 2-1 success for Arsenal.

It's just a shame that a referee had such a major say on the outcome of such an engrossing contest.

Howard Webb continues to make high profile mistakes.

Earlier in the campaign Manchester United boss David Moyes branded Webb's decision making 'scandalous' and Liverpool were fuming when he failed to award Luis Suarez a clear penalty during a 2-1 league defeat at Chelsea.

Yesterday Webb messed up again. Quite rightly he gave a penalty for a foul on Suarez, converted by Steven Gerrard to bring Liverpool back into the game in the second half, but inconceivably the man, who took charge of the 2010 World Cup decider and is going to this year's finals, did not point to the spot when moments later the Uruguayan was felled in the box by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Webb was a few yards away and incredibly waved play on to the amazement of the visiting team and Brendan Rodgers.

Webb's made so many poor calls lately that if he were a manager he'd have been sacked by now!

As the referee wilted in the white hot atmosphere of a stirring fixture, Arsenal stood up to be counted having entered the match on the back of that dull as dishwater draw against United, Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho calling their manager 'a specialist in failure' and with thoughts of a 5-1 humiliation at Anfield just over a week ago in their minds.

Arsene Wenger freshened up his team, left big names on the bench and it worked with goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, Mathieu Flamini and Oxlade-Chamberlain excelling. Young debutant striker Yaya Sanogo also put in an impressive shift.

Oxlade-Chamberlain scored early on and then created a well taken goal for Lukas Podolski on 47 minutes, sending the Emirates into raptures.

Inspired by Gerrard and Suarez, Liverpool, for whom Daniel Sturridge was unusually wasteful when chances came his way, roared back and were unlucky not to earn a replay.

They have 12 league games left this season to finish fourth or above. They won't be at Wembley, but they'll still be like Cup finals for Rodgers and his players.

As for Arsenal this result should do their confidence the power of good ahead of facing Bayern Munich in the Champions League this week and for the title race.

Also they're now in the FA Cup quarter-finals as the quest for a first trophy since 2005 continues.

"Failure?" This season may yet end in success for Arsene Wenger.

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