“I don't think there's another team anywhere that would show the attitude and commitment we showed out there today. Everybody will be sat there proud at having seen their team produce a performance like that with the attitude and commitment,” Liverpool boss KENNY DALGLISH reflects on his side’s team spirit.
“It was a game where Liverpool defended a lot. I feel hard done by in the end because the time was over by three minutes,” Arsenal boss ARSENE WENGER bemoans not playing to the final whistle.
FROM the depths of despair to the dizzy heights of ecstasy. Even for a club famed for its comebacks this was some achievement.
When Robin Van Persie fired Arsenal in front from the penalty spot eight minutes into stoppage time at the Emirates Stadium Liverpool were on their knees.
Having produced a Herculean effort in the face of adversity to keep the Gunners at bay, leaving with nothing would have been a bitter pill to swallow.
Earlier in the season the Reds would have accepted their fate and gone quietly.
Not any more. Not under Kenny Dalglish.
The steely backbone and never-say-die spirit he has instilled in his players shone through as somehow they rescued a seemingly lost cause.
They got a helping hand from the hapless Emmanuel Eboue as he senselessly shoved Lucas Leiva over in the box but the rest was down to Dutch courage.
Dirk Kuyt is the man for the big occasion and once again he underlined why Liverpool were so keen to tie him down to a new contract.
Kuyt’s ice cool spot-kick in the 102nd minute maintained his 100% record from the penalty spot – it was the eighth time he has converted for the Reds from 12 yards.
His 12th goal of an increasingly profitable season with the last kick of the match sparked scenes of jubilation in the away end.
As the players raced to celebrate with their supporters – with Pepe Reina sprinting 100 yards to join in the party and shirts being thrown for mementoes – it underlined the club’s new found sense of unity and togetherness.
With everyone pulling in the same direction Liverpool are a serious force to be reckoned with.
And as Dalglish’s men finally headed for the dressing room, there was Jamie Carragher standing bare footed on the touchline and waiting to embrace his team-mates.
Carragher had made his own incredible personal fightback after being knocked unconscious following a sickening clash of heads with John Flanagan just before the hour mark.
The sight of him being taken off on a stretcher in a neck brace and being given oxygen had rocked Liverpool. The concern of his team-mates who had rushed to his aid amid fears he had swallowed his tongue was clear.
But Carragher is one of a kind. The man is made of granite and after coming round in the dressing room typically he wondered what all the fuss was about.
Nothing will deny one of the greatest servants in the club’s history from moving into second place in Liverpool’s all-time appearance list next month.
The centre-back has been putting his body on the line for the Reds for the last 14 years and he continues to inspire those around him.
When Carragher went off and Sotirios Kyrgiakos came on Liverpool were facing an increasingly uphill battle.
Having already lost Fabio Aurelio to injury and with Andy Carroll hobbling after twisting his knee and then being replaced by Jonjo Shelvey, Dalglish’s limited resources were being stretched to the limit.
But in Carragher’s absence the depleted Reds rolled up their sleeves and produced a performance packed full of guts and commitment.
Aurelio’s brittle body letting him down once again midway through the first half had led to Dalglish calling on Jack Robinson.
The 17-year-old left-back is the youngest player in the club’s history after his brief run out at Hull on the final day of last season.
But this was a very different proposition with Theo Walcott charging at him.
Just like Flanagan had done against Manchester City six days earlier, Robinson grabbed his chance to shine with both hands.
It was a display of great composure and maturity as he nullified the threat of the England international.
On the other flank Flanagan simply carried on where he left off against City with Samir Nasri barely getting a kick. Being involved in the incident which left Carragher sparked out would have shaken many 18-year-olds but he simply knuckled down and got on with the job.
Dalglish’s faith in the two exciting Academy starlets is being richly rewarded.
Another Kirkby graduate is also blossoming. Jay Spearing was outstanding alongside the once again impressive Lucas.
The clumsy tackle on Cesc Fabregas for the penalty shouldn’t detract from the quality of Spearing’s performance.
He must have covered every blade of grass, never giving Arsenal’s much vaunted midfield time to pick a pass. Like a terrier, he was in their faces, hustling and harrying them into making mistakes.
For 45 minutes Liverpool were restricted to merely containment. Arsene Wenger’s side were on the front front with Reina spilling Walcott’s shot before Laurent Koscielny’s header cannoned back off the bar. But for all their eye-catching approach play, Arsenal rarely threatened to hurt Liverpool who defended stoutly.
As Arsenal’s desperation grew in the second half, gaps were left for the visitors to exploit on the counter attack.
However, Luis Saurez couldn’t punish them either side of Reina’s stunning reflex stop to deny Van Persie.
That save underlined Reina’s importance to the Reds against one of the clubs desperate to prise him away from Anfield, but it looked like it would count for nothing when Spearing’s trip gifted Arsenal a penalty.
Somehow Liverpool picked themselves up off the canvas to deliver the final telling blow through Kuyt.
In the cold light of day the Reds still haven’t ever won at the Emirates and are increasingly unlikely to catch Tottenham in the race for fifth place. And in severely denting Arsenal’s championship hopes they went a long way to ensuring Manchester United will claim a record 19th title.
But none of that mattered yesterday. This was a result to celebrate and a day which will live long in the memory.
Dalglish’s Liverpool are on the march and next season can’t come quickly enough.
ARSENAL (4-2-3-1): Szczesny, Eboue, Koscielny, Djourou, Clichy, Walcott (Arshavin 73), Diaby (Song 81), Wilshere (Bendtner 73), Nasri, Fabregas, Van Persie. Subs not used: Lehmann, Squillaci, Gibbs, Chamakh.
LIVERPOOL (4-4-2): Reina, Flanagan, Carragher (Kyrgiakos 63), Skrtel, Aurelio (Robinson 22), Kuyt, Spearing, Lucas, Meireles, Suarez, Carroll (Shelvey 71). Subs not used: Gulacsi, Cole, Ngog, Rodriguez.
GOALS: Van Persie (90+8), Kuyt (90+12).
CARDS: Arsenal: Van Persie, Eboue. Liverpool: Flanagan, Skrtel, Shelvey., Lucas.
REFEREE: Referee: Andre Marriner