García arrival undoes Lehmann's heroics and Arsenal hopes

If goals continue to be scarce for Liverpool, they at least showed a keen sense of drama in the positioning of an overwhelmingly deserved winner. The match was in its 87th minute when the resistance of the superb Jens Lehmann was at last smashed. His save from one substitute Dietmar Hamann was excellent but he could not prevent another, Luis García, from converting the rebound from an angle.

Had it not been for Lehmann, Liverpool would enjoy a far merrier record than the laboured figures of three goals from the past six Premiership matches. The German, who had saved a Steven Gerrard penalty in the first half, dived to tip an overhead kick from Harry Kewell round the post after 76 minutes. He could not, however, stifle the truth.

Arsenal were mediocre and merely dogged, even if Emmanuel Adebayor will lament the incorrect off-side decision, prior to the interval that had been given before he rounded Jerzy Dudek. A terrible lack of attacking potency was revealed and it will be hard to claim a Champions League place for next season.

Arsène Wenger's team might easily have drawn yet never lived up to the occasion. Even if it had not been the tenth anniversary of the death of Bob Paisley, the greatest manager Liverpool and, for that matter, English football has known, this, with two clubs of noble lineage involved, would still have been an occasion redolent of the game's traditions.

Rafael Benítez's side, who are three points behind Manchester United in the chase for the runners-up spot, have more to look forward. A win in last night's manner must also raise the spirits before the home tie with United in the FA Cup on Saturday.

The thought that no striker has scored for Liverpool in the Premiership since New Year's Eve will remind the players that a disproportionate effort is too often called for before they can squeeze a win out of a game. The clubs look longingly for a striker who can erupt and bring point to mundane play.

That task was of an intensely personal nature for Robbie Fowler, making his first start at Anfield for Liverpool since being transferred to Leeds late in 2001. It took a piece of indulgence by the referee Graham Poll, however, to offer Benítez's side the lead after 32 minutes. The Ivorian right-back Emmanuel Eboué was deemed to have fouled Fernando Morientes after the striker's interchange with Harry Kewell. Most officials would have called it a conventional battle of strength but Liverpool were awarded a penalty. Lehmann dived to his right to turn away Gerrard's attempt.

The German had earlier made at least as impressive a save from his team-mate Philippe Senderos when the centre-half stooped and miscued a header. Liverpool, for their part, were again experiencing difficulties in converting moves into goals.

Morientes was again a disappointment. A cross from Fowler in the 39th minute was given little direction by his head and the Spaniard would flick another header wide before failing, after 74 minutes, to muster a shot from near the six-yard line.

It is Fowler, despite all the wounds and woes of his career, who looks the forward most likely to provide distinction in the front line. There was a flashback to his best days in the 51st minute. With one touch of his left foot he took a Gerrard cross to spin away from Senderos before shooting tamely with his right.

Benítez must have been tantalised as well as encouraged. The Arsenal manager has more profound worries. Though his inexperienced back four acquitted themselves fairly well here it is really the mature members of the squad who are most to be blamed for the drastic shortcomings in this campaign.

Despite the participation of Thierry Henry, Freddie Ljungberg and Robert Pires there was scarcely an attack of note from the visitors, as Jamie Carragher savoured his 400th appearance for Liverpool in peace. Arsenal merely got some practice at meeting the type of sustained pressure that will be even more severe when they face Real Madrid in the Bernabéu next week.

Copyright - The Guardian

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