Liverpool Grab Late Draw To Hurt Arsenal’s Title Bid
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Roberto Firmino scored a dramatic late equaliser as Arsenal’s lead at the top of the Premier League was cut to six points in an incident-packed encounter with Liverpool at Anfield.
The Gunners were in cruise control with a two-goal lead inside the first half-hour as they went in search for their first win at Liverpool since 2012, but were left bitterly disappointed as they paid the price for losing their discipline at times.
Gabriel Martinelli pounced on sloppy Liverpool defending to put Arsenal ahead after eight minutes then Gabriel Jesus rose unmarked between Virgil van Dijk and Andy Robertson to head home at the Kop End.
Liverpool sparked into life after a flashpoint between Granit Xhaka and Trent Alexander-Arnold late in the first half, Mohamed Salah scoring at the far post just before the break to set up a thriller.
There was a bizarre incident at the end of the first half when referee’s assistant Constantine Hatzidakis appeared to elbow Liverpool defender Robertson as the teams left the field.
In a dramatic second half, Salah missed his second successive penalty when he shot wide after Rob Holding fouled Diogo Jota before Firmino rose at the far post to head home Alexander-Arnold’s cross with three minutes left.
In a frantic climax, Arsenal goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale – who had already saved crucially from Darwin Nunez – produced two incredible stops from Salah and Ibrahima Konate as Mikel Arteta’s pace-setters had to settle for a point, with Liverpool fully deserving their share of the spoils for a stirring fightback.
Arsenal dropped points from a leading position for only the third time this season – and it could have been worse for the Gunners but for this stunning save by Aaron Ramsdale from Ibrahima Konate at the death
Liverpool had produced an insipid performance and were being outplayed until Xhaka unwisely chose to tangle with Alexander-Arnold, the incident injecting Jurgen Klopp’s side with the energy and inspiration they had been lacking – and crucially bringing the Anfield crowd into play.
Salah’s goal was the perfect invitation to mount a second-half siege in front of the Kop and it was one Liverpool accepted as they finally showed some of their true form.
Arsenal were penned back and it took an outstanding display of goalkeeping from Ramsdale to prevent a resurgent Liverpool from completing the perfect comeback.
While Liverpool’s attack looked more potent after the break, once again they looked so vulnerable at the back and both Arsenal goals were cheap.
In the final reckoning it is a result that suits neither side, reducing Liverpool’s chances of a top-four place even further and offering a boost to Arsenal’s title rivals Manchester City, who trailed by eight points at the start of the weekend but have now seen that gap come down by two points and still have a game in hand on the north Londoners.
Arsenal’s players slumped to the turf in disappointment when Firmino arrived at the far post to head in the perfect delivery from Alexander-Arnold.
But their wounds were largely self-inflicted after casting aside the calm control they demonstrated for much of the first half by needlessly angering Liverpool and the Anfield crowd, after which the home side were unrecognisable.
The fact that Arsenal came away with even a point was thanks to a remarkable display by Ramsdale, who emerged as a heroic figure to repeatedly deny a fired-up Liverpool attack and secure a draw that that might yet prove vital in the outcome of this title race.
He saved well as Nunez raced clear but he kept the best for last with a flying fingertip save from Salah’s deflected curling effort, before somehow keeping out Konate’s attempt to bundle home the winner from practically on the goalline with only seconds left. *BBC*