Liverpool FC will take a slender advantage back to Anfield for the second leg of their UEFA Champions League quarter-final after the first of three meetings with Arsenal FC inside seven days ended 1-1 in London.
In an absorbing contest, Emmanuel Adebayor put Arsenal in front on 23 minutes only for Dirk Kuyt to restore parity with a crucial away goal three minutes later. The two sides renew hostilities in the Premier League on Saturday before resuming a finely-balanced tie at Anfield next Tuesday.
Both managers had predicted a tight encounter and there was little to separate the teams early on. Javier Mascherano was brought back into the Liverpool midfield as they looked to contain Arsenal's passing threat down the middle while Adebayor was restored to the hosts' attack. Chances, though, were few and it took seven minutes for either side to threaten, and that came only when Pepe Reina misjudged a long ball forward, recovering just in time to thwart the menacing Adebayor.
The opportunity lifted the home supporters, whose hopes for the season have ebbed during Arsenal's recent dip in form. The sight of Kolo Touré dispossessing Steven Gerrard, then Mathieu Flamini clattering into Fernando Torres, further raised morale and Arsenal almost capitalised on their momentum on 21 minutes. Flamini's beautifully flighted pass dissected the Liverpool defence and was met on the volley by Robin van Persie, who could not keep his shot down. Moments later the Dutch striker came close again. His low shot was tipped behind by a full-stretch Reina and from the resulting corner Arsenal scored, Adebayor rising to head in.
Liverpool were reeling yet quickly regrouped and as so often, inspired by Gerrard, they hit back with their first chance of the game. The visiting captain picked up a loose ball and darted past Emmanuel Eboué and Touré before crossing low for Kuyt to bundle the ball in. Belief restored, the Merseysiders were suddenly the sharper. Ryan Babel tested Manuel Almunia with a low drive before Sami Hyypiä's header almost caught out a surprisingly sluggish Arsenal back line as Liverpool went for the kill.
Rafael Benítez's men almost scored again two minutes after the restart. Again the Gunners rearguard failed to clear, allowing Kuyt to snap a shot at goal that Almunia did well to hold. Van Persie hobbled off at the break, making way for Theo Walcott, only the third Englishman involved on the night, and he was soon in the thick of the action. His rasping 56th-minute attempt flew just past the far post and his pace immediately unsettled the Liverpool defence. On 65 minutes he darted into the area and pulled the ball back for Eboué whose goalbound effort was cleared away.
Arsène Wenger sent on Nicklas Bendtner and the Dane's first telling contribution was to block, inadvertently on the line, Cesc Fabregas's goal-bound shot with 20 minutes to play. The north Londoners' moment had passed. Having defeated holders AC Milan at San Siro to get this far, Arsenal will not be daunted by the return leg at Anfield; given their record against English opposition there in this competition, neither will Liverpool be.
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