GUNNER BE GOOD: Arsenal players celebrate
ARSENE WENGER called for a ” big December,” but perhaps he didn’t have this Christmas cracker of a match in mind when he spoke. This game however was big! Brilliant for the neutral as Arsenal and Liverpool played out a stunning 3-3 draw at the Emirates stadium on Friday evening (December 22).
Liverpool had a 1-0 half time lead courtesy of Philipe Coutinho and doubled that after 52 minutes courtesy of Mohamed Salah. Then came six minutes of unbelievable Arsenal firepower. Alexis Sanchez headed in to make it 2-1 a minute later. Granit Xhaka then redeemed himself from an indifferent first half with a 30 yard Exocet of a strike to draw the Gunners level.
Two minutes after that, Mesut Ozil dinked one over Simon Mignolet from an acute angle and amazingly Arsenal had turned it around to take a 3-2 lead. Honours however were eventually shared when Roberto Firminio levelled with twenty minutes still remaining. There had to be a winner, didn’t there? Despite both sides trying for a fourth goal, the end result was a point apiece, but what a game!
“It was a thrilling game,” said Wenger. “I am frustrated at not winning, but that is the type of game you want in the Premier League.We played frozen with fear and not at our level in the first half. In the second half we played at our level.The good thing is that overall we did not give up,” The spirit is fantastic. On that front, I am proud of the players.”
Wenger selected the same eleven who saw off Newcastle United, but the manner in which the Reds raced out of the blocks suggested that the Gunners would be there for the taking. Coutinho headed his first goal in England and the Gunners looked shell shocked as Firmino, Sadio Mane and Salah looked sharp and in the mood.
The latter doubled the Reds’ lead after another counter attack. Jack Wilshere had the Egyptian in his sights but Salah slipped his attentions to slot in off an unfortunate deflection off substitute Shkodran Mustafi. It was ruthless stuff from the Reds, but what was about to happen next, not even the most myopic of Arsenal fan would have predicted.
Five stunning second half minutes then swung the pendulum in favour of Arsenal. On 52 minutes, Hector Bellerin crossed for Sanchez who is well placed to head in from close range. 1-2.
Four minutes later and Arsenal are level! Xhaka does what we know he can do. From 30 yards out, the Swiss midfielder unleashes. The ball deviates en route, Simon Mignolet losses the trajectory and the ball fizzes through his hands 2-2
Then in the 58th minute and amazingly Arsenal are ahead. Özil takes Alexandre Lacazette’s backheel before clipping the ball over Mignolet. 3-2, what a turnaround. Jurgen Klopp was stunned, as were the travelling Reds’ supporters.
The attack play was wonderful, but on the defensive side, this was how not to do it. Shell shocked but resolute, Liverpool continued to attack. Sane, Salah, Coutinho and Firmino were always a threat, and when the latter was afforded too much time and space, he let fly. Cech seemed to have it covered but the shot was too powerful as it sailed in the the Arsenal net. 3-3, would there be a winner?
Neither side was able to get ahead again, but we had been privileged to have witnessed one of the best ever Premier League games.
Klopp said “It is difficult to explain, we should be three, four even five-nil up before we don’t defend a cross. It feels really strange. A point at Arsenal is a good result for most teams in the world, but it feels not too good at the moment.We made mistakes on both sides of the game but it is unlikely to win 6-3 or something at Arsenal.
“We didn’t take all of our chances but three goals should be enough,” grumbled the Reds boss.
Read every story in our hardcopy newspaper for free by downloading the app.