Arsenal advanced to the last eight of the FA Cup and exacted instant revenge with a 2-1 victory at home to Liverpool on Sunday at the Emirates Stadium.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain put Arsenal ahead in the first half after a strong start by Liverpool. Lukas Podolski doubled the lead early in the second half before Steven Gerrard pulled a goal back for the visitors from the penalty spot. Liverpool had several chances—and multiple penalty appeals—to equalise, but Arsenal held on for a morale-boosting victory.
Arsenal will play at home to Everton in the quarter-finals.
The same two teams met at Anfield last weekend, with Liverpool dominating in a 5-1 victory. Arsenal thus needed a massive turnaround, and considering the Gunners' upcoming fixture list, the result could prove a massive lift.
"It was vital for us to respond to the disappointing performance we had against Liverpool last week. It was vital as well because we had an opportunity to go to the quarter-final of the FA Cup," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said, per Arsenal.com. "I am very pleased with the intensity of our commitment and our response, our determination. You could feel there was a clinical desire in my team to take every opportunity to 'kill' them."
Wenger added: "That's why it was a great game between two good teams, and overall it was a fantastic FA Cup tie. Many people questioned the FA Cup but like today it delivers a great football performance."
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, meanwhile, was left to rue his side's missed opportunities.
"I thought the best team lost," Rodgers said, per the Daily Mirror. "I thought the very least we deserved was a replay. We probably should have been 2-0 up inside those first six or seven minutes. Going forward we were outstanding."
Up next for Arsenal is a home game against European champions Bayern Munich in the first knockout round of the UEFA Champions League. Before the end of March, the Gunners—who are currently second in the Premier League—will have played Bayern again, rivals Tottenham and English title contenders Chelsea and Manchester City.
Though Liverpool are now out of the FA Cup, Rodgers' side remain alive in the title race as well. Currently four points behind leaders Chelsea, the Reds will continue their challenge with a home match against Swansea next weekend.
Wenger shuffled his starting lineup, making seven changes to the side that played to a scoreless draw at home to Manchester United in the league on Wednesday. Lukasz Fabianski replaced Wojciech Szczesny in goal, while full-backs Carl Jenkinson and Nacho Monreal replaced Bacary Sagna and Kieran Gibbs.
Mathieu Flamini returned from suspension to start in holding midfield, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lukas Podolski came into the attack. Finally, 21-year-old French striker Yaya Sanogo made his first start for Arsenal, replacing Olivier Giroud amid a personal scandal for the latter.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers made three changes from the side that won 3-2 at Fulham in the league on Wednesday. Brad Jones replaced Simon Mignolet in goal, Daniel Agger came into the heart of defence for Kolo Toure and Joe Allen replaced Jordan Henderson in midfield.
Much like the previous meeting between these sides, Liverpool started quickly, with Daniel Sturridge forcing Fabianski into a second-minute save after running onto Steven Gerrard's through ball. Arsenal's defence was split open again in the fifth minute as Luis Suarez chipped a pass over the top for Sturridge, but Sturridge shot into the side netting.
Arsenal then made Liverpool pay for their misses, taking the lead in the 16th minute.
The visitors failed to clear Arsenal's initial set piece and allowed Mesut Ozil to play a high cross into the box. Sanogo chested the ball down and attempted a volley, which was blocked. But Oxlade-Chamberlain ran onto the rebound and finished first-time for a 1-0 Arsenal lead.
Raheem Sterling created another chance for Liverpool in the 33rd minute, using his pace to dribble to the byline past two defenders. But his shot from a tight angle was blocked. Ten minutes later, Suarez forced a save from Fabianski with a shot on the right.
Arsenal took their 1-0 lead into half-time, but immediately after the break, Liverpool went straight back on the attack.
Suarez created the first chance in the 46th minute, dribbling through the box before forcing Fabianksi to save a low shot. But once again, Arsenal made Liverpool pay for the miss.
This time, the response came quickly.
Oxlade-Chamberlain led a quick attack down the right and pulled back a pass for Podolski in the middle. With his first touch, Podolski swept past Jones for a 2-0 lead.
Suarez shot over the bar in the 54th minute as Liverpool searched for a route back into the match, and Ozil forced Jones into a save at the other end one minute later. In the 57th minute, Sturridge curled a shot straight at Fabianski after creating space for himself along the edge of the box.
Liverpool won a penalty in the 59th minute when Podolski fouled Suarez, and Gerrard coolly slotted in his spot-kick to pull a goal back for the visitors.
Three minutes later, Liverpool nearly had the equaliser, as Sturridge ran onto a through ball in Arsenal's box. But Fabianski came off his line alertly and timed his challenge perfectly to push the ball away at the crucial moment.
Liverpool could have had another penalty in the 65th minute when Oxlade-Chamberlain clattered into Suarez inside the box. But referee Howard Webb waved play on.
"I thought it was a blatant penalty," Rodgers told BT Sport television (h/t Reuters). "Luis got a touch on the ball and young Alex has just taken him out."
Wenger wasn't so sure.
"I have to watch it again," Wenger said, per Arsenal.com. "You know that I rate Suarez as a player but I think if we had him in the team we would have a few more free-kicks! There was contact, I don't deny that, but he is good to make more of it."
Suarez forced another save in the 68th minute, shooting first-time at Fabianski from the edge of the box. Nine minutes later, the Uruguayan had another chance, but his half-volley flew straight at Fabianski.
Liverpool had yet another chance in the 86th minute, as Daniel Agger rose highest to meet Gerrard's free kick. But Agger directed his header off target. The hosts again appealed for a penalty after Fabianski made contact with Agger, but Webb again waved play on.
|Arsenal Player Ratings vs. Liverpool|
|Liverpool Player Ratings vs. Arsenal|
Arsenal host Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 on Wednesday. The Gunners return to the league with a match at home to Sunderland on Saturday.
Liverpool host Swansea in the league next Sunday.