As the party intensifies in Liverpool, the wake will be long and bitter in north London. Arsene Wenger’s failure to strengthen a young side, to dip into a war-chest rumoured to contain £60 million, now looks an incredibly expensive mistake. Contrast with Rafael Benitez’s January purchase of Martin Skrtel, as imposing a centre-half as Arsenal’s Philippe Senderos is weak.
Ultimately, though, it was Steven Gerrard’s penalty that won it for Liverpool, completing Arsenal’s week of spot-kick misery. On the long road north, the joke amongst Arsenal fans had been that they prayed the tie would not go to penalties, because they would be denied all five. Resentment still lingered over the two spot-kick appeals turned down at the Emirates in the first two games of the clubs’ epic trilogy.
In amazing late scenes, with the emotions torn this way and that, substitute Theo Walcott pounced on an air-shot from Gerrard to race fully 80 yards, eluding Alonso, Mascherano and Hyypia before squaring for Adebayor to give Arsenal a second away goal. Walcott’s run was magnificent, the one disappointment for the young flier was that Fabio Capello had just left.
Liverpool had to score. Oblivion beckoned. But then came Gerrard, taking responsibility when Toure knocked over Ryan Babel. Calmness personified, Gerrard stroked the spot-kick past Almunia. Arsenal’s agony was compounded when Babel added a breakaway fourth in stoppage time.
I’ll go way out on a limb with this prediction — if Liverpool and Manchester United go to Moscow for the final, there will be no shortage of YouTube footage to choose from. And some of it might even include match highlights.