Liverpool played out a pulsating 3-3 draw with Arsenal at Emirates Stadium on Friday night in their final fixture before Christmas.
The Reds led 2-0 in London as Philippe Coutinho’s deft header put them in front during a first half they dominated for long periods, before Mohamed Salah found the net via the aid of a deflection just after the break.
However, the Gunners struck three times in the six minutes that followed the Egyptian’s effort to incredibly go in front as Alexis Sanchez, Granit Xhaka and Mesut Ozil all hit the target to stun the visitors.
Nevertheless, Roberto Firmino made it 3-3 when his drive crept through the fingertips of Petr Cech and looped into the net, meaning the spoils were shared in this frenetic encounter.
The key points…
- Jordan Henderson forced off with early injury at the Emirates.
- Coutinho header opens the scoring on 26 minutes.
- Salah claims goal No.21 of campaign just after half-time.
- Three strikes in five minutes from Sanchez, Xhaka and Ozil put hosts in front.
- Firmino levels up as Cech fails to keep out drive.
- Liverpool unbeaten run extended to 13 matches.
The team news…
Liverpool made two changes for the fixture at Emirates Stadium as Sadio Mane and Emre Can replaced Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Georginio Wijnaldum in the line-up, both of whom were named on the bench.
The first half…
The visitors kicked the game off in north London aiming to build upon last weekend’s emphatic 4-0 success at Bournemouth; however, their early game plan was dealt a blow with less than 10 minutes played when Henderson pulled up with an injury. The captain was unable to continue and James Milner replaced him in the midfield three.
Shortly after, Liverpool fashioned the game’s first opportunity as Salah and Coutinho swapped passes intricately down the right before the latter swiped a left-footed effort wide of the post.
Next, the Reds opened up their hosts down the other flank before Andy Robertson’s cross was met with a planted header from Firmino, but Cech pushed it behind at the near post.
Soon after, a similar situation – this time from a Coutinho delivery – saw the Brazilian forward guide a powerful downward header the wrong side of the far stick.
But finally, with 26 minutes played, Arsenal’s resistance was broken via a header – though it was Coutinho who successfully converted.
Racing 60 yards to keep up with play after Milner’s pass had sent Salah scampering down the right, the No.10 arrived right on time to subtly loop the Egyptian’s deflected centre over Cech with his forehead.
By now, Jürgen Klopp’s side were firmly in the ascendancy and Firmino was an inch away from doubling the advantage when he sent a blistering shot just over the angle of the goal after side-stepping Hector Bellerin.
Indeed, Liverpool perhaps should have made it 2-0 a minute before the break when Laurent Koscielny inadvertently sent Salah bounding down on goal. His attempt to steer beyond Cech was thwarted by the Arsenal goalkeeper and Mane’s acrobatic follow-up whistled over the crossbar.
Then, seconds later, Salah uncharacteristically miscued a shot just inside the box after being teed up by Mane.
The second half…
Just minutes of the second period had elapsed when Liverpool threatened once more. In what’s become a trademark counter-attack from an opposition corner, Salah and Mane broke at speed, but the former saw a low effort parried to safety by Cech.
However, the Gunners’ rearguard was finally breached for a second time on 52 minutes as Salah registered his 21st goal of the season.
Another counter resulted in Firmino playing a perfectly-weighted reverse ball into the No.11’s path midway inside the home side’s half. Up against two Arsenal defenders, he held up play before attempting to arch a shot into the bottom corner – which successfully found its intended target via the aid of a deflection off Koscielny.
However, in a fixture that has had a habit of throwing up high-scoring clashes over the years, Arsenal remarkably found themselves ahead just six minutes later.
Firstly, Sanchez reduced the arrears when he caught Joe Gomez unawares to steal in at the back post and plant a close-range header into the back of the net.
Mignolet then couldn’t keep out Xhaka’s swerving drive from distance despite getting a hand to the ball, before Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette combined in the box to allow the former to dink a chip over the Liverpool ‘keeper and put the Gunners 3-2 ahead.
Liverpool were stunned, but Mane went close to restoring parity when he met Coutinho’s outside-of-the-foot ball with a volley; however, Cech was able to get his body in the way.
But in what had turned into another incredible game of football, the Reds did equalise with just under a quarter of the game to play when Firmino collected Coutinho’s pass just inside the area and found the net via the fingertips of Cech.
With the game approaching stoppage-time, Salah smacked an effort into the side-netting, but there was to be no further late drama as the points were shared.