Arsenal 1-1 Liverpool, or WTF Eboue?!?!
Today was the day I figured Arsenal would prove what they have to offer the Premier League; to either put up or shut up when it comes to their chances of winning the title this season. Sure, last week they walked all over Blackpool, but to be honest there wasn’t much opposition and it had been quite an easy affair, but today would be different, today Arsenal were facing a rejuvenated Liverpool, a challenge that would either give supporters hope or crush them.
Having missed the game, I had to rely on updates from Twitter and the ScoreMobileFC app on my Blackberry to follow the action. The first 70 minutes of the game stressed Arsenal’s greatest flaw: great possession and possible creation, but when it comes to putting the other side to the knife it just wasn’t all that believable. Checking the stats on my app it showed that Arsenal had dominated possession, shots on goal, and crosses and by no small margin I should add (I believe midway through the second half Arsenal had 24 crosses to Liverpool’s 8). Encouraging to say the least and while I walked around Chapter’s bookstore with my wife before leaving St. John’s for Gander, I would periodically check my phone and smile with positive spirit at the thought that my team was giving it their all as the season winds down.
By the 90 minute mark the score was still 0-0 and I was going crazy, holding on to hope that Arsenal would score that much-needed goal. I placed so much hope in my team that I became certain it would happen and as the 90 + minutes seemed to go on forever I found myself with my hand over the Arsenal crest on my jersey wishing that Robin would get in and provide the relief we needed. Twitter friends had been tweeting me to say he seemed as though he would score or die trying, just the attitude needed to finish the job. The goal would come from a penalty conceded by Liverpool on Cesc. After watching the replay there seemed not a calmer soul in the stadium than the Dutchman, who netted just as the 8 extra minutes of the period had been exhausted. Surely the game was over in our favour.
As the 8 minutes turned into 9 and 10 I screamed at my phone for the ref to blow the whistle and the app to post the final score. Knowing Arsenal’s talent for letting a lead slip in the last minutes of a game, I somehow thought that couldn’t happen, that after 10 minutes of play the game would be called, having already gone an extra two minutes over what the ref had signalled. The final whistle would come, but not until Eboue fouled Lucas in the Arsenal zone after the ball had been cleared to the side of the goal. I have seen some shameful moves by Arsenal players this season, but this one takes the cake. The whistle was in the referee’s mouth and I can imagine the air about to pass through it. It was blown, alright, but accompanied a signal to the penalty spot. Eboue had managed to fall over the Liverpool player when there was no threat at all to the Arsenal goal and when Kuyt took the penalty the whistle would go again for the final time just as the ball reached our netting.
Many supporters are feeling betrayed today and understandably so, but I feel we have been let down in just two ways: Eboue’s stupid challenge in the final moment of the game, and the ref’s poor decision to let the game run into extra-extra time. From what I’ve read and seen from highlights, Arsenal played their hearts out today, putting in so much effort only to have one player mess it all up at the end. If anything, I commend the team for their work and support them into the mid-week tie against Sp*rs. All players make mistakes from time to time though some, as today illustrates, are more significant than others.
I remain positive, but that positivity has been tempered by a nagging cynicism that is attempting to make its way to the surface. When it’s all said and done, this could be the day that supporters remember above all others in the season that had the greatest effect on our progress in the league.