Arsenal and Liverpool played-out a breathless 3-3 draw at the Emirates Stadium on Friday evening.
Jürgen Klopp’s troops stormed into a deserved first-half lead as Philippe Coutinho nodded the Reds in front before Mohammed Salah doubled the advantage with a well-taken strike after half-time. The Gunners though stormed back and three goals within five minutes ensured they snatched a 3-2 lead. Roberto Firmino profited from a goal-keeping error from Petr Čech to secure a hard-fought draw and conclude a scarcely believable evening in North London.
Reds rip apart Arsenal
The first talking point of the game arrived after only 12 minutes when following an attempted challenge on Alexis Sanchez, Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson had to be replaced by James Milner through injury. Whilst it was not initially a flickering festive affair at the Emirates Stadium, the game did eventually come to life mid-way through the first-half. Arsenal defender Nacho Monreal did well to intercept the ball just as Roberto Firmino looked to have gone clear through on goal.
The Brazilian was then the first to draw Petr Čech into action. Latching onto an excellent cross from Andrew Robertson, he attempted to head home from the far post but the goalkeeper palmed behind. The former Hoffenheim forward then headed just wide as Liverpool continued to build pressure on the Arsenal goal.
Coutinho climbs to snatch the lead
The Reds’ forward momentum did eventually pay off and it was Philippe Coutinho who got the opening strike. Mohammed Salah found space on the right-side and tore into the penalty area. The Egyptian’s cross then took a nick off of Laurent Koscielny. Coutinho nipped in front of Čech, and with a deft header lifted the ball over the stopper and into the net to put the visitors 1-0 up.
Firmino then tried his luck from distance but his effort curled agonisingly wide of the far post. Salah could well have stretched the advantage as he capitalised on an error from Koscielny but was denied by the goalkeeper. Sadio Mané attempted to put in the rebound with an acrobatic effort but the ball just lifted over the bar. Salah then had yet another opportunity but spurned it as he completely miscued the shot following a low cross.
Wenger reacts to poor first-half
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger made a change at half-time as he withdrew Nacho Monreal for German defender Shkodran Mustafi. It did not look to have much of an impact however as Salah was again denied following a lung-busting Liverpool counter-attack.
The former Chelsea man was not be denied against the Gunners though. Breaking yet again, Salah brought the ball out of defence and combined well with Firmino. Finding space on the edge of the area, the Egyptian then curled the ball into the bottom-left corner via a deflection to take his league tally to 15.
Sleepy Sanchez finally wakes up
The two-goal advantage did not last long however and want-away Alexis Sanchez found a foothold for the home side barely 60 seconds later. Héctor Bellerín crossed into the box and with Joe Gomez letting the Chilean free, the ball was headed home to give the Gunners hope of an unlikely comeback.
Arsenal did complete the most dramatic of recoveries in a matter of minutes and the catalyst was Granit Xhaka. The Swiss midfielder moved into acres of room in the midfield and unleashed a thunderous drive from 35 yards. The ball flew past a flailing Simon Mignolet and crashed into the net to draw Arsene Wenger’s men level.
Unbelievably, the Gunners then netted again. Following poor play from Andrew Robertson, Iwobi flicked the ball towards Mesut Özil. Playing a neat exchange with Alexandre Lacazette, the German then lifted the ball over the advancing Mignolet to send Arsenal into a barely believable lead.
Liverpool storm back
Lacazette nearly claimed a fourth but his close range effort was deflected away thanks to a great challenge from Klavan. The tackle proved to be crucial as only five minutes later, the Reds equalised. Firmino again found too much room on the edge of the Gunners’ penalty area. Initially, it looked like Čech had stopped the Brazilian’s speculative effort but the save was too weak and the ball dropped into the net.
Salah did have a chance in the closing stages but could only lash his effort into the side-netting of Čech’s goal. As a result, the scores stayed level as supporters alike gathered their breath at the final whistle.
Where to start with this one? It truly was a dramatic night at the Emirates Stadium and it gets the Christmas football off to the best possible start. Although, not one for the defences. Liverpool were by far the better side in the first period and much-deserved their 2-0 lead. That was just the spark that Arsenal needed and within five minutes, they were ahead thanks to three brilliant goals. Liverpool though rallied and a draw was probably a fair result.
It seems to be the same aspects that have to improve for both sides. Their defences need to be worked on. Following the draw, Liverpool and Arsenal both remain fourth and fifth respectively in the Premier League table. Liverpool next travel to face Swansea City on Boxing Day, whilst the Gunners face Crystal Palace in their next league clash.
Arsenal: Čech (5); Bellerin (6), Koscielny (6), Monreal (5) (Mustafi (6), 45′), Maitland-Niles (6); Xhaka (7), Wilshere (7); Iwobi (6) (Welbeck (N/A), 78′), Özil (9), Sanchez (7) (Walcott (N/A), 89′); Lacazette (7).
Liverpool: Mignolet (5); Gomez (5), Lovren (6), Klavan (6), Robertson (7); Henderson (N/A) (Milner (6), 13′), Can (7); Salah (8), Coutinho (7) (Oxlade-Chamberlain (N/A), 84′), Mané (7) (Wijnaldum (N/A, 80′), Firmino (8).
Goals: Coutinho (26′), Salah (52′), Sanchez (53′), Xhaka (56′), Özil (58′), Firmino (71′)
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Yellow Cards: Iwobi (58′)
Red Cards: N/A
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