Wenger retains hope but is at a loss
Arsene Wenger is at a loss to explain how Arsenal failed to win their Champions League quarter-final first leg at home to Liverpool - but he is confident his men can finish the job at Anfield next week. The Gunners, who have seen their Premier League title hopes fade following a run of just one win in six, took an early lead through Emmanuel Adebayor last night. But the Reds, last season's beaten finalists, hit back quickly through Dirk Kuyt's close-range effort after a fine run from captain Steven Gerrard. Arsenal dominated the second half, their defence comfortably shackling what threat was posed by in-form Spain striker Fernando Torres - and the hosts should have had a penalty when Alexander Hleb appeared to be clearly tugged back by Kuyt, only for the claims to be waved away by Dutch referee Pieter Vink. Wenger's men could not find a way past Liverpool - who will now fancy their chances of securing another European Cup semi-final appearance when the two sides meet again at Anfield next Tuesday. 'It is difficult to understand how we did not win the game, because we had a lot of possession and a lot of chances,' said Wenger, whose side will first meet Liverpool once more in the Premier League on Saturday. 'We were a bit unlucky as well with a big decision of the referee on the penalty. It's difficult to take, but we have to swallow it. 'Sometimes the referee is in a bad position but he was five yards away from Kuyt, and it was 100% a blatant penalty.' Wenger has little doubt Arsenal were the better team. 'I feel we were not rewarded for what we produced - and we had the chances to win it,' he said. 'Liverpool created very little, and the whole second half was played in one half. 'If you look at our amount of possession compared to Liverpool, it is frightening that we could only come out of it with a 1-1. 'It will be a test now for us in the second leg, but we have the desire to do it. 'However, before that we have a championship game - and that might take more out of us than this game. 'It is now a little bit of a survival battle - the one who is still good after three games is the one who is the better team.' Wenger revealed forward Robin van Persie is a doubt for Saturday's lunchtime kick-off, having been replaced by Theo Walcott at half-time because of a thigh problem. 'We had to take him out as a precaution,' said the Arsenal manager. 'It doesn't look too bad, but we think he may be short for the next game. 'We will see how it goes. I don't think it's a recurrence but it was where he was injured before, on his thigh, where he had the problem.'