Walcott magic gives Arsenal consolation

LIVERPOOL Wed Apr 9, 2008 3:46pm BST

1 of 2. Arsenal's Mathieu Flamini (R) challenges Liverpool's Peter Crouch during their Champions League quarter-final second leg football match at Anfield in Liverpool, northern England April 8, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Giampiero Sposito

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LIVERPOOL (Reuters) - Liverpool's epic 4-2 Champions League win over Arsenal on Tuesday was full of memorable moments with Arsenal's teenage substitute Theo Walcott providing the best individual skill of all.

With Liverpool leading 2-1 with six minutes left, Walcott took possession on the edge of the Arsenal penalty area and set off like an Olympic sprinter. His 70-metre surge took him past four Liverpool defenders before he crossed perfectly for Emmanuel Adebayor to score Arsenal's equaliser.

His run recalled Michael Owen's goal for England against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup in France and Ryan Giggs' run and goal against Arsenal for Manchester United in the 1999 FA Cup semi-final.

Both Owen and Giggs scored after their runs, but Walcott was happy to be applauded by his team mates and fans for his glorious assist.

At that point, with the score on the night level at 2-2 and Arsenal ahead on the away goals rule, it seemed as though he had yet again provided Arsenal with a match-changing lifeline as he has done a number of other occasions this season.

In the end, Liverpool rallied with two late goals to win, but Walcott's presence on the field for what proved to be the final 23 minutes of the titanic contest was unforgettable.

BIG IMPACT

Wenger, who signed him as a 16-year-old from Southampton in January 2006, said before the first leg that he intended using him during the three matches against Liverpool in the Champions League and Premier League over the last week.

"Theo makes a big impact every time he comes on at the moment," said Wenger. "I'll use him sometimes with him coming on. Other times I'll start with him. I will see. The first game against Liverpool will decide a lot."

Walcott came on at halftime in the first leg for the injured Robin van Persie and played for the full 90 minutes against Liverpool in Saturday's 1-1 Premier League draw back at the Emirates.

In all he has made 34 appearances for Arsenal this season, 18 as a sub -- and certainly been influential.

He scored his first two Premier League goals for Arsenal in a 2-2 draw with Birmingham City in February and has since earned a recall to the England squad under new Italian coach Fabio Capello who was at Anfield for Tuesday's match.

Walcott was included in England's 2006 World Cup squad by previous boss Sven-Goran Eriksson before he had even played for Arsenal, and although his talent is obvious, it is also obvious that Wenger is still monitoring his progress very carefully.

It is interesting to speculate on what damage he might have caused Liverpool if he had been on for even longer on Tuesday.

With only the Premier League title left to play for -- despite it being almost out of reach -- Wenger could decide now is the time to unleash him a little more. He clearly seems ready for the opportunity.

(editing by Justin Palmer)

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