By Richard Clarke
An 87th minute goal from Luis Garcia finally undermined Arsenal's rearguard resistance at Anfield on Tuesday night.
The visitors had been under pressure for almost the entire game but it still seemed they were set to pinch a point.
Whenever their robust defence was breached they could always rely on Jens Lehmann.
The German keeper produced three outstanding saves this evening, including a block from Steven Gerrard's 31 st-minute penalty.
With the seconds ticking by, Lehmann must have thought he had done enough. However it was not to be. He managed to block Dietmarr Hamann's long-range drive but the ball rebounded to Garcia who steered the ball home from the acutest of angles.
In terms of possession and chances, it was undoubtedly deserved. But it was still unbelievably cruel on Arsenal's keeper this evening.
Arsène Wenger's team-sheet this evening included the names of Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue for the first time in nine games. The duo have been at the African Nations Cup since they were pulled out of the squad for the FA Cup Third Round tie with Cardiff on January 7 on the eve of the game.
The more experienced Ivorian joined Philippe Senderos at centre back while his younger counterpart returned at right back. Midfielder Mathieu Flamini remained where he had ended Saturday's draw with Bolton - left back.
The other changes came on the flanks where Robert Pires and Freddie Ljungberg replaced Abou Diaby and the injured Jose Antonio Reyes.
Liverpool dominated the opening exchanges but the first real opening fell to Arsenal. In the 10 th minute Freddie Ljungberg was fouled near the right-hand corner flag and Francesc Fabregas' free-kick was nodded into the sidenetting by Toure.
However the home side soon cranked up the pressure. Lehmann nipped in front of Fowler to deny the recently returned Liverpool striker. Then Kewell volleyed wildly wide at the far post when he might have done better.
Ljungberg scuttled forward and sent a shot trickling wide but, midway through the half, Lehmann made his first great save. Gerrard crossed from the left and Senderos miscued a stooping header at the near post. The ball looped up and seemed to be heading over Lehmann before the 36-year-old thrust out his right hand to paw the ball aside.
It was a great stop but Arsenal's were even more grateful to the German in the 32nd minute. Eboue was harshly adjudged to have checked Fernando Morientes and referee Graham Poll pointed to the spot. Gerrard's penalty was not bad but Lehmann's stop was superb - low and to his right.
That miss was sandwiched by two errors by Morientes. Firstly he miscued six yards out after fine work by Kewell on the left and then only produced a lame header at Lehmann following an inch-perfect cross from Fowler.
Six minutes into the second half, Lehmann completed a hat-trick of super stops. Fowler flicked the ball past Senderos at the near post and unleashed a swivelling shot that seemed destined for the far corner.
The sprawling keeper managed to get his fingertips to the ball and Toure booted it clear from danger.
On the hour, Morientes made it a hat-trick of misses as well when he nodded Gerrard's cross beyond the far post.
Although Henry stung the hands of Jerzy Dudek soon afterwards, the Liverpool pressure was starting to become incessant. Sami Hyypia nearly flicked home at the near post on the hour and they continued to thunder forward throughout the second half.
The goal really should have arrived six minutes from time when Morientes miskicked inexcusably from six yards out and substitute Djibril Cisse flicked the rebound over the bar.
By this time Anfield had become anxious and a little angry. The Arsenal rearguard action had nearly done its job.
However there was a twist in the tail tonight.
- Pires 79
- Ljungberg Yellow Card
- Hleb 79
- Alonso 72
- Fowler 80
- Hamann 72
- Luis Garcia Goal!
- Cisse 80