Liverpool FC stormed into the UEFA Champions League semi-finals for the third time in four years after a stunning finish to the game brought three goals in eight minutes and a disappointing end to Arsenal FC's campaign.
Liverpool looked on course for victory as goals from Sami Hyypiä and Fernando Torres, wiping out Abou Diaby's 13th-minute opener, left them leading going into the final minutes. Emmanuel Adebayor turned the tie on its head with six minutes remaining after a sensational run from Theo Walcott, but Arsenal's away-goal advantage was fleeting as Steven Gerrard converted a penalty moments later before Ryan Babel completed the scoring in added time.
It left the home support in raptures, yet they had been quietened early on as the visitors began positively following the 1-1 first-leg draw in London. Adebayor appeared particularly threatening and Arsenal's attacking approach was richly rewarded when Diaby broke down the inside right channel, collected Aleksandr Hleb's pass and f
ired low towards Pepe Reina's near post. The goalkeeper seemed to have it covered but the ball cannoned off his knee and into the net.
Stunned by their dream start, Arsenal's fans at the opposite end did not immediately realise their side had moved ahead on aggregate, but that soon changed and they had more to shout about in the opening half-hour. The home team, marginal favourites at kick-off, looked anything but. Nervy and unable to retain possession, Reina came close to spilling a dangerous Gaël Clichy cross, his travails exemplifying Liverpool's struggle to settle.
Yet by the 30th minute the Reds were level. In their first serious assault on Arsenal's goal, Hyypiä escaped the attentions of Philippe Senderos to meet Gerrard's centre with a firm header, beating Cesc Fabregas standing on t
he goalline as it went in off the post. Anfield erupted and Liverpool grew in confidence.
had a further setback just before the break when Mathieu Flamini was carried off with an ankle injury, though the contest was all-square at the interval.
Liverpool set about changing that after the restart, Peter Crouch troubling Manuel Almunia with a low drive to get the crowd fired up. The towering England striker then almost inadvertently steered in Fábio Aurélio's wayward shot with his heel, following good work down the right flank by Torres as Rafael Benítez's men stepped it up. Arsenal were no longer the dominant force, and the match swung firmly in Liverpool's favour in the 69th minute when Crouch nodded on a long clearance by Reina and Torres expertly turned into space and fired the ball high past Almunia into the top corner – a stunning goal worthy of the occasion.
It was merely the start of the drama. Arsenal briefly put themselves in pole position when Walcott sprinted past four Liverpool players before teeing up Adebayor. A minute later the initiative was wrested from Arsène Wenger's team when Kolo Touré was adjudged to have brought down Babel and Gerrard converted from the spot. Substitute Babel then calmed frayed nerves two minutes into added time, racing clear on the counterattack and sliding the ball past Almunia to cap an incredible evening.