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Five Aside
By ESPN Staff

Fog claims Liverpool-Arsenal Cup clash

Heavy fog has forced the postponement of Liverpool's Carling Cup quarter-final at home to Arsenal.

The match had been in doubt from early in the evening with Anfield shrouded in the thick mist but hopes were raised when referee Martin Atkinson undertook his first inspection at 6.15pm and said, if conditions had not deteriorated in 30 minutes, the game would go ahead.

However, on his return at 6.45pm conditions had worsened and Atkinson, concerned about visibility for both his officials and players, decided the situation was unlikely to improve and so declared the match unplayable.

The fog had earlier caused problems for Arsenal with their plane having to be diverted to Blackpool airport because of conditions in Liverpool.

Many fans were also stuck in traffic, backed-up because of the fog, and would have struggled to have made the 7.45pm kick-off.

Atkinson said he had endeavoured to get the game played but he had to consider not only his fellow officials and the players but also a full house at Anfield.

'We were informed at 4pm this afternoon the conditions were quite bad and we got to the ground at 4.50pm to have a look at it,' he told Sky Sports.

'It is very misty and has been for the last three hours. We have been in the stands, looked round from different angles from a spectators' point of view and the weather is not getting better - you can't see some parts of the pitch.

'When you look across the pitch from the far (Centenary Stand) side you can't see this touchline. I have to think of my assistant referees and the control of the game.'

Both Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez and counterpart Arsene Wenger wanted to play and Atkinson said he did all he could to keep the match on but felt the conditions could compromise safety.

'We are all disappointed the game could not go ahead,' said the Yorkshire official. 'It is a massive game and from an official's point of view we want to be officiating.

'From the situation we can't do that. For us to start the game and then have an assistant not being able to see an offside decision would bring the game into a farce.'

Benitez was unhappy the match could not go ahead.

'I think we could play. I was surprised because this morning we were training in worse conditions,' he said. 'You cannot change the decision. You must respect it but we don't agree.'

Arsenal manager Wenger admitted he had been keen to see how his side, which was to have included a number of fringe players, would cope against an expected stronger hosts' line-up.

'It is very much disappointing because the young players had a good opportunity to play tonight,' he told Radio Five Live. 'We had a good mixture of experienced and young players and I think it would have been very interesting.'

Wenger said he would have happily played the match tomorrow but there was not enough time to put everything in place.

'It is impossible in 24 hours to rearrange a game,' he added.

Anfield stadium manager Ged Poynton explained: 'You need 10 days' notice minimum to inform Merseyside Police for their requirements.'

Poynton added that after discussions with the police he was satisfied from a safety point of view the match could go ahead but the final decision rested with the official.

'The police and I have no issue over safety, we could see all the spectators through the CCTV,' he told Sky Sports.

'The areas which concerned us was spectators at the back of the stands who could not see parts of the ground but we were quite happy to accept that but the referee decided to have another inspection at 7.45pm.

'The referee makes the decision when there is an issue over the weather.'