Recap: Joe Allen came off the bench to strike a 90th minute equalizer and salvage Liverpool a share of the points from a thrilling 3-3 draw with Premier League table toppers Arsenal at Anfield. Liverpool started and finished 12 points behind Arsenal in the standings, but there was nothing to separate the two teams in yet another breathless encounter between the two heavyweights of English football.
Indeed, Liverpool, who came into the fixture missing eight players because of injury, made by far the better start. Roberto Firmino, playing as the furthest man forward, with Christian Benteke starting from the bench, played his part in a fluid, high-tempo opening from Jurgen Klopp’s side, and gave the Merseysiders reward for their early endeavors with two goals in the first 19 minutes.
His first came following up a shot from Emre Can that Petr Cech parried into the Brazilian’s path. His second was even better, curling a marvelous effort into the top corner from 25 yards. But on both occasions Liverpool’s lead was short lived. Aaron Ramsey cancelled out Firmino’s first goal, running onto Joel Campbell’s through ball and beating Simon Mignolet at his near post. If there was some debate as to whether the Liverpool goalkeeper had been at fault for the opening goal, there could be no question of his culpability for the second. From a corner from the right, Olivier Giroud got the merest of touches at the near post and Mignolet failed to keep the ball at bay.
Before halftime, both sides had chances to go in front, Giroud missed a glaring opportunity for Arsenal, while Firmino clipped the crossbar at the other end. Yet as Liverpool’s early pressure subsided, the second half went more in Arsenal’s favor. And when Giroud expertly turned and finished to put Arsenal in front for the first time 10 minutes into the second half, Arsene Wenger’s side appeared on the road to a huge three points. Yet Liverpool never threw in the towel, and they got their rewards. It came from an unlikely source, too, as Allen volleyed home a header down from fellow-substitute Christian Benteke. Klopp went wild on the touchline, and well he might, after a thrilling 90 minutes that still left Liverpool dropping down a place to ninth and Arsenal now only in front of Leicester City on goal difference.
FULLTIME! Liverpool 3-3 Arsenal
It wasn’t quite the 4-4 of seven years ago, but this latest contest between English heavyweights Liverpool and Arsenal was hardly lacking in entertainment. Liverpool started exceptionally well and scored two early goals from Roberto Firmino, only to be undone and pulled back level on both occasions thanks to some sloppiness at the back and goals from Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud. The Arsenal striker then looked to have won it with a fine turn and finish, only for Allen to ensure a merited share of the points with a 90th minute equalizer. Arsenal remain top of the Premier League, but now only on goal difference, after Leicester City’s win at Tottenham.
GOAL Liverpool 3-3 Arsenal (Allen, 90)
With the now coming down at Anfield, this contest gets the finish it deserves. Benteke climbs highest to head down a hopeful cross tossed into the Arsenal box and substitute Joe Allen arrives in perfect time to strike a volley that just squeezes past Cech into the bottom corner. Klopp goes wild on the sideline, and it would be hard to argue that Liverpool don’t deserve that on the balance of play.
88 mins: Klopp’s final chance is to bring on newly arrived loan signing Steven Caulker for his debut, in place of Lallana. And the center-back’s first Liverpool appearance will see him go straight up front as Liverpool chase a goal in the dying minutes.
87 mins: Wenger moves to stiffen up his side’s midfield yet further, bringing on captain Mikel Arteta for Mesut Ozil.
81 mins: Klopp makes his second substitution, bringing on one midfielder, Joe Allen, for another, Emre Can.
78 mins: Nervy moment for Arsenal. Nathaniel Clyne manages to stab in a cross from the right, but Lallana failed to get enough of a touch to it at the near post, allowing Arsenal to frantically clear the ball to relative safety. Liverpool aren’t playing with the same fluidity of early on but they’re still doing enough to make Arsenal fans nervous.
75 mins: Wenger makes his now customary substitution when Arsenal are in front, bringing on Kieran Gibbs to sit in front of Monreal and shore up Arsenal’s left side. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also comes on, with both wide midfielders, Walcott and Campbell, going off. Wenger is now determined for Arsenal to hold what they have and maintain their advantage at the top of the Premier League.
72 mins: Liverpool are starting to apply some real pressure now. Per Mertesacker’s just had to clear a dangerous low cross from Jordan Ibe inside his own six-yard box. Big test to see if Arsenal can hold out.
69 mins: Inches away from an equalizer for Liverpool. A corner bounces out to Alberto Moreno, whose fierce left-footed drive deflects off Campbell and sails just wide of Cech’s right-hand-post.
66 mins: Right on cue, here comes Benteke off the bench now, replacing Milner.
64 mins: Liverpool just had two good openings going forward, but on both occasions a rushed, poor pass let them down. Liverpool have generally played very well, but Klopp must be thinking about when to bring on Christian Benteke.
61 mins: Recently dismissed Real Madrid manager and former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez is one of those in attendance at Anfield tonight. Not sure he’ll be enthused about the defending on show so far, but there’s certainly been plenty of entertainment.
A look at Giroud's second goal:
GOAL! Liverpool 2-3 Arsenal (Giroud, 55)
Giroud gets his second goal of the match to put Arsenal in front for the first time. Hector Bellerin instigated the attack with a burst down the right, before laying it back to Campbell. The Costa Rican’s forward pass found Giroud, who turned expertly in the box and then fired an unstoppable left-footed effort past an unmoved Mignolet and into the bottom corner of the net. Klopp immediately urges his team on as, having led twice, they now have to come from behind.
51 mins: A really good forward run by Walcott, leading a quick Arsenal counter attack. Campbell’s run ahead of him opens up space for a shot, but the England international dragged it wide of the goal. Both teams still carrying plenty of attacking threat and leaving themselves open when they lose the ball.
48 mins: And also immediately there’s a chance at the other end. Firmino is again involved, touching a Milner cross into the path of Lallana, but the former Southampton midfielder couldn’t get over the ball and ended up sending a shot high into the stands behind Cech’s goal.
46 mins: The second half has picked up right where the first finished off. Inside 30 seconds of the restart, Mesut Ozil curled in a fine cross, but Joel Campbell could only turn it wide at the back post on the stretch.
Second half kicks off! Arsenal get the match back underway.
HALFTIME Liverpool 2-2 Arsenal
These sides have produced plenty of goals in matches between the two in recent years, and this contest has been no different. The thrilling first 45 minutes provided four goals and it could have easily been more. Liverpool’s intensity saw them dominate proceedings early on and they capitalized with one good and one exceptional finish from Roberto Firmino. But on each occasion sloppiness at the back cost them dear, with Aaron Ramsey and then Olivier Giroud equalizing for Arsenal. Giroud missed a simple chance to put Arsenal in front, while Firmino hit the bar in injury time. If both teams carry on as they are, with Arsenal open in midfield and Liverpool shaky at the back, more goals surely await.
45+2 mins: So close for a hat-trick for Firmino and a half-time lead for Liverpool. This time he turns expertly in the box to strike a bouncing ball left footed, but he just failed to keep it down and it clipped the top of the crossbar with Cech unable to do anything but watch on and hope.
45+1 mins: Three minutes of injury time to be played at the end of what has been an engrossing first half.
41 mins: Liverpool produce their best move for a while, with some nice interplay getting Firmino through down the right of the penalty area. The Brazilian looks to pick out Lallana with a pass along the six-yard box, but Cech made a crucial intervention and just about got the ball to safety.
40 mins: Liverpool have, perhaps unsurprisingly, been unable to maintain their early intensity. Yet it would be a shock were there not more goals to come at Anfield. Liverpool are still looking good on the ball, while they are giving Arsenal plenty of encouragement at the other end.
Here's Giroud's goal:
34 mins: Mignolet looks massively uncertain from a corner once again. The Liverpool goalkeeper came out then hesitated and was lucky that the ball was diverted wide of his post. Klopp has previously said that he doesn’t need a new goalkeeper, but after Mignolet’s performance tonight and Adam Bogdan’s against Exeter City in the FA Cup it’s clear he needs an upgrade.
30 mins: Arsenal are causing real danger every time they go forward. It really should have been 3-2 to the Gunners just a moment ago, when Walcott delivered a ball across the six-yard box but Giroud somehow failed to make clean contact twith the simplest of chances in the middle.
GOAL! Liverpool 2-2 Arsenal (Giroud, 25)
Incredible. Liverpool have been dominant, yet they’ve again been hauled level. Arsenal had just gone close when Sakho was forced to head off his own goalline. From the resulting corner Liverpool’s goalkeeping problems struck once again. The corner came in from the left and Giroud got the slightest of touches to take it past Mignolet at his near post. The Liverpool goalkeeper should have done much better. His lack of authority over his area continues to be a major weakness.
And Firmino's brilliant second goal:
With a chance to catch breath, here's a look at Ramsey's equalizer:
21 mins: Arsenal have just been given another scare, with Alberto Moreno bursting clear and striking the crossbar, only to be called back for offside.
GOAL! Liverpool 2-1 Arsenal (Firmino, 19)
A stunning goal from Firmino to get his second of the match and put Liverpool back in front after a breathless opening 20 minutes at Anfield. Again it’s Liverpool’s energy that sees them win the ball back deep in the Arsenal half. This time James Milner shifts the ball into the path of Firmino, and, 25 yards from goal,the Brazilian curled a sensational shot over Cech and into the top corner of the net.
18 mins: Giroud has received lengthy treatment on the sidelines after taking a nasty hit on the head. He still looks dazed but has come back into the action.
Here's Firmino's goal that put Liverpool temporarily in front:
GOAL! Liverpool 1-1 Arsenal (Ramsey, 14)
Out of absolutely nothing, with their first attack of any note, Arsenal have pulled level. With Mamadou Sakho distracted after a clash of heads with Olivier Giroud, Joel Campbell played the ball in behind the Liverpool center-back to find a trademark forward run of Aaron Ramsey. The Arsenal midfielder caught out Simon Mignolet with an instant low shot inside the Liverpool goalkeeper’s near post.
GOAL! Liverpool 1-0 Arsenal (Firmino, 10)
Liverpool’s energetic start has paid handsome dividends. It was the pressing of Klopp’s side that allowed them to win the ball back from Theo Walcott as he sought to break clear from a Liverpool corner. Emre Can’s well-struck effort was parried away by Petr Cech, but only into the path of Firmino, who reacted quicker than any Arsenal player to take a touch and drill a low left-footed effort into the net. Liverpool fully deserve their lead and Klopp’s decision to start with Firmino over Benteke is certainly proving a shrewd one so far.
6 mins: Liverpool have continued to make the running, and there’s just been a big shout from the Anfield crowd for a penalty. Adam Lallana received the ball on the edge of the box and sought to take it round Per Mertesacker to manufacture a shooting opportunity. But he went down under very minimal contact, and, tellingly, the appeal came more from the crowd than Lallana or his Liverpool teammates.
4 mins: Liverpool have controlled the possession for the opening exchanges. Klopp will be looking for his team to replicate the team’s performances in beating Manchester City and Chelsea, when Firmino also played as the furthest man forward in a high-energy lineup.
Kickoff! Liverpool get the game underway at Anfield.
2:20 p.m. EST: The two lineups have been announced for the heavyweight Premier League showdown. Despite being Liverpool’s only fit striker, Christian Benteke starts on the bench, with Roberto Firmino set to lead the line in a more fluid system. Jurgen Klopp also welcomes captain Jordan Henderson back into the side, as well as defenders Mamadou Sakho and Kolo Toure. New loan signing Steven Caulker starts on the bench. Arsenal, meanwhile, make five changes from their FA Cup win over Sunderland. Joel Campbell’s fine recent form sees him retain his place in the continued absence of Alexis Sanchez.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) January 13, 2016
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) January 13, 2016
Preview: Arsenal will attempt to keep their Premier League title charge firmly on track on Wednesday night at a venue where their championship hopes have experienced wildly different fortunes over the years. Arsene Wenger’s side will visit Anfield and an injury-ravaged Liverpool side holding a two-point advantage at the top of the Premier League as they seek their first title in 12 years.
Arsenal had the exact same advantage when they headed to Anfield a little less than two years ago, only to suffer a chastening defeat from which their title hopes never recovered. A 5-1 loss was evidence that the naivety and vulnerabilities that had been a large part of the club’s failure to land England’s top prize for so long still very much remained.
Far better memories come from their Anfield trip in May 1989. Then Arsenal needed an improbable two-goal victory to take the title away from a Liverpool side that had been dominant for the past 15 years. Improbably, an injury-time Michael Thomas goal gave Arsenal a 2-0 win and the championship in one of English football’s most memorable contests.
While Arsenal are very much in the title hunt again this time around, Liverpool have, for the moment, fallen some way from those heights. Jurgen Klopp’s Anfield revolution remains very much a work in progress, as he battles inconsistent performances and a huge list of injuries. In total, Liverpool, who currently sit in eighth place, 12 points back of Arsenal, have 11 players unavailable for Wednesday’s match.
Klopp has sought to address a particular shortage of center-backs by bringing in once-capped England international Steven Caulker on loan from Queens Park Rangers. Mamadou Sakho and Kolo Toure could be fit to take on Arsenal, although Martin Skrtel, Dejan Lovren, Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge are among those still sidelined. Arsenal are set to again be without Alexis Sanchez, although the Chilean could return to take on Stoke City on Sunday.
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