Arsenal 1-1 Liverpool
There is rarely a dull game when these two Premier League rivals meet, and this was no exception.
While not quite the Christmas goalfest the fixture produced 11 months ago, the final score could easily have been the same as the two in-form sides went head-to-head.
And for us fans, there were plenty of Premier League 2018 highlights to talk about.
Highlights of the game
It was claimed earlier this week that Arsenal are ‘no longer a soft touch’.
I personally think the jury remains out on that one, but this performance and result have gone some way to showing Arsenal are improving as they held their own against their fellow rivals – something they had struggled to do so far this term.
Defeats on the opening two weekends to Manchester City and Chelsea could not mask a long unbeaten run they had since embarked on in all competitions.
The facts remained that while the Gunners had won 11 games in a row before they drew at Crystal Palace on Sunday, they had not played a ‘top’ side since the start of the season.
It also showed they had won just three of their last 27 Premier League games against the other ‘big six’ sides, losing the most recent five encounters.
While this result doesn’t improve that record, it does give a glimmer of hope for Arsenal fans that new coach Unai Emery is starting to get his message across.
In an absorbing encounter, chances were fashioned as early as the fourth minute when Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson had to be alert to smother a flick from Alexandre Lacazette.
Then Henrikh Mkhitaryan looped a header narrowly over after beating the onrushing shot-stopper to the ball. Moments before that, Liverpool had a goal disallowed when Sadio Mane was flagged for offside after Roberto Firminio had chipped the ball over Bernd Leno only for it to come back off the post.
Only the reflexes of Leno kept out the visitors when Virgil van Dijk, still in the Arsenal box after a previous attack, expertly controlled a Mo Salah cross and volleyed towards goal.
Leno then kept out Andrew Robertson as Liverpool were on top.
Arsenal finished the half strongly with Lacazette dragging a shot wide after a lovely backheel from Mesut Ozil. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang headed wide before Lacazette was the man flagged for offside after putting the ball in the net.
However, Liverpool would have had a half-time lead only to be denied by a post for the second time through Van Dijk’s header.
The breakthrough arrived just past the hour mark.
Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold celebrates after James Milner scored the opening goal against Arsenal
The ever-reliable James Milner rifled the ball home past Leno after the goalkeeper was only able to parry a Mane delivery to the edge of the area.
Mane nearly made the game safe for the visitors after a quick-fire break saw him inches away from turning home a cross from Mo Salah – who had worn protective strapping in training all week because of an inflamed wrist tendon. Leno then made up for his poor effort on the goal by superbly keeping out a Van Dijk header.
In between those two chances, and with Arsenal chasing an equaliser, it was a surprise when Aubameyang, who has scored 17 and set up five goals in his 23 Premier League appearances for the Gunners, made way for Aaron Ramsey.
No one could begrudge Liverpool the lead at this stage, and it took something special to draw the hosts level.
Substitute Alex Iwobi threaded the ball through and, despite Alisson narrowing the angle, Lacazette showed neat footwork and powered home an equaliser from a narrow angle.
As the majority of Emirates loudly voiced their delight, Mane gave a warning the game was still to be won on both sides by curling an effort onto the roof of the net.
Five minutes of stoppage time could not provide a winner as Arsenal made a point as well as gained one, and Liverpool returned to the top of the table.
The Premier League 2018 betting odds are ever changing.
Arsenal have not led a top-flight game at half-time all season. Under Emery, they have been behind twice after 45 minutes and level nine times.
Arsenal are winless in seven Premier League meetings with Liverpool (drawn four, lost three), their longest such run against them since a 12-game sequence from 1994 to 2000.
The Gunners have won 11 of their last 14 home league games, with the other two matches both defeats by Manchester City (3-0 in March and 2-0 in August).
More than three-quarters of Arsenal’s league goals this term have come in the second half (19 of 25).
This was the second of four consecutive home games for Arsenal.
Next up at the Emirates is Sporting Lisbon in the Europa League before Wolves are the visitors in the Premier League.
After the international break, Emery’s side travels to Bournemouth.
Liverpool now visit Belgrade to meet Red Star in the Champions League on Tuesday (November 6) before welcoming Fulham to Anfield on November 11.
It’s then a trip to Watford on November 24, straight after the international break.
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