Liverpool beat Arsenal in classic to reach semi
LIVERPOOL (Reuters) - Liverpool beat Arsenal 4-2 in a classic Champions League battle at Anfield on Tuesday to clinch their quarter-final tie 5-3 on aggregate and reach the semi-finals for the third time in four seasons.
Their opponents at the end of the month will again be Chelsea who they defeated at the same stage in 2005 and last season.
In a match that will rank as one of the best played in European competition, Liverpool came back from the dead after Arsenal appeared to have clinched the tie on away goals with only six minutes to play.
But Liverpool's indefatigable belief in themselves on European nights at Anfield saw them turn the tie with Steven Gerrard smashing home an 85th minute penalty and substitute Ryan Babel wrapping up a memorable win with a stoppage time goal.
Arsenal, who were superb for the opening half hour playing football worthy of European champions, took the lead through Abou Diaby after 13 minutes.
Liverpool fought back with a header from Sami Hyypia on the half hour and a stunning shot on the turn from Fernando Torres in the 69th minute to take a 2-1 lead on the night and 3-2 on aggregate.
A breakaway by substitute Theo Walcott which saw him skate past four Liverpool players six minutes from time set up Emmanuel Adebayor to make the score 2-2 -- 3-3 on aggregate and Arsenal ahead on away goals.
Liverpool got a lifeline a minute later when Arsenal defender Kolo Toure tugged Babel's arm to concede a penalty and Gerrard, who had not had the best of games, scored to put Liverpool 3-2 ahead.
Babel sealed the win with his stoppage time goal to finally ease the tension at Anfield which was almost unbearable throughout an absorbing, enthralling encounter.
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez praised his side's strength of character as they twice faced expulsion from the competition before pulling through against an Arsenal side they were meeting for the third time in seven days.
"This will go down as a great European night," he told reporters.
"Arsenal played well in the first half and then there were six goals and we won, so our supporters will be happy."
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger blamed Swedish referee Peter Frojdfeldt for awarding Liverpool the penalty and his own defence for some naive play.
"We have a feeling of disappointment and injustice. At the moment it is difficult because the whole dressing room is down," Wenger said.
"The game is over for us. It was down to a dodgy decision, I believe, from the referee. Over the two games it was difficult to swallow. It was a double disappointment because all the big decisions went against us."
Arsenal made a blistering start, putting Liverpool under pressure from the kickoff with Alexandr Hleb and Cesc Fabregas taking control of the midfield.
Benitez appeared to have got his team selection wrong by playing Gerrard wide out on the left.
The strike partnership of Torres and Peter Crouch also failed to click at first and it was not until Gerrard moved into a more familiar central position after 25 minutes that Liverpool began to come back into the game.
By then the visitors, who had to score to have any chance of advancing following last week's 1-1 draw at the Emirates in the first leg, were a goal ahead and looking unassailable.
Hleb set Diaby up to score with a powerful angled drive from the right which flew off Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina's thigh and into the net.
Liverpool equalised after 30 minutes when Arsenal left Hyypia unmarked at a Gerrard corner and the tall Finnish defender powered a header inside the far post.
Torres, who had had a relatively quiet match, produced a moment of brilliance after 69 minutes, turning and shooting high into Manuel Almunia's net to put Liverpool 2-1 ahead. It was his 29th goal in only his 40th match for the club.
The game swung back Arsenal's way when Adebayor scored, before Liverpool's stupendous comeback in the closing minutes.
(Editing by Justin Palmer and Rex Gowar)
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