By Daniel Moxon – @dmoxon_
It finished all-square in London as Arsenal and Liverpool drew 1-1 in what was a terrific watch for fans and neutrals alike in the English Premier League clash at the Emirates Stadium.
James Milner opened the scoring for the visitors with a terrific drive from the edge of the area on the hour mark, but they were pegged back with seven minutes to go when Alexandre Lacazette finished superbly.
In truth both sides could have won an end-to-end game, but Jurgen Klopp will be disappointed that they didn’t win a game in which they were denied a perfectly legal goal by the offside flag.
The first half was a breathless affair with both sides seemingly taking it in turns to pepper the opposition’s goal with effort after effort, but somehow the game remained 0-0 at the break, when it could so easily have been 4-4.
The second was just as riveting with both sides throwing caution to the wind and not appearing to have too much interest in defending, and finally both sides would break their duck.
Arsenal showed their intent to assert themselves on the game from the off constantly harrying Liverpool, wearing purple for the first time this season, and looking to get the ball out to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at every possible opportunity.
It was a shaky start from Trent Alexander-Arnold in particular who, twice in the opening minutes, was beaten by Aubameyang, only saved by the offside flag on the second.
It would be the former-Dortmund man who would have the best opportunity of the opening 15 minutes, when a cross-field ball was missed by Gini Wijnaldum and the Arsenal man nicked it away from the Reds’ No. 66, only to be denied by an excellent recovering block from Joe Gomez.
Aubameyang crossed a few minutes later into Henrikh Mkhitaryan who beat the onrushing Alisson in the air but his header fell agonisingly wide of the empty net – a real let-off and wake up call for Jurgen Klopp’s men.
Liverpool thought they had the breakthrough when a reverse ball over the top of the home defence was met by Roberto Firmino, who lobbed Bernd Leno only to hit the post – Sadio Mané tapped home the rebound but was cruelly adjudged to be offside, despite being behind Firmino when he took his original shot.
Virgil van Dijk was also unlucky not to break the deadlock when he took a delightful cross down on his chest and took it on the volley, but was denied by an excellent stop from Leno who blocked well. Leno denied another defender a few minutes later when he stopped a well-hit strike from Andy Robertson.
Aubameyang had the ball in the back of the net five minutes before half time but that too was disallowed for offside. Correctly this time, might I add.
Liverpool’s No. 4 had another golden opportunity to put his side ahead in the dying moments of the first period, beating the offside trap from a free-kick and Leno in the air, only to see his header trickle agonisingly onto the post and cleared for a corner.
Arsenal came out for the second half an dominated much of the ball for the opening 10 minutes – Unai Emery’s men seemed to identify a weakness in Fabinho, who was poor throughout, and constantly put him under pressure. The Brazilian was booked after two very clumsy challenges in the space of as many minutes on Alexandre Lacazette and Lucas Torreira.
But it was Liverpool that finally took the lead on the hour mark when Sadio Mané’s cross was fluffed by goalkeeper Leno and Milner drilled home from the edge of the penalty area to send the travelling support into raptures. The technique on the hit was superb – so many times we see that type of effort blazed over the bar, but he kept his cool and his head over the ball and rifled in a long-awaited opener.
Torreira almost equalised immediately for the Gunners – his shot was patted over the bar by Alisson, but it was a sign that the home side were not going to lie down.
Liverpool’s goalscoring hero had an injury scare after the following corner. He rose highest to head away but also headbutted the back of Gomez’s head, and was down for several minutes looking dazed, but the Englishman got back up in typical rugged style and signalled his intentions to continue, with the permission of the medical team.
Virgil had a free header from a corner which was superbly tipped-over by Leno, but truth be told if it was either side of him then it would have been a certain second goal for Jurgen Klopp’s men.
Surely enough, the hosts found their equaliser when Lacazette was fed by substitute Alex Iwobi – Alisson came and forced him wide, but he turned back on himself and curled a delicious effort beyond the Brazilian and the despairing Joe Gomez to really wake-up the Emirates faithful.
Both sides pushed for a late winner but none materialised, and now both sides will turn their attentions to European clashes in midweek – Liverpool travel to Serbia to take on Red Star Belgrade while Arsenal host Sporting CP.