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  • Writer's pictureBy Yann Tear at Anfield

Late Liverpool goal denies Arsenal crucial win as two goal lead is surrendered

Liverpool (1) 2 Salah 41, Firmino 87

Arsenal (2) 2 Martinelli 8, Jesus 28

Arsenal were pegged back at the last in a superb encounter – and leave Anfield regretting the loss of a winning position and the chance to regain an eight-point lead over Man City in the title race.

They led 2-0 after Gabriel Martinelli and Gabriel Jesus both found the net in the opening half hour, but Mo Salah pulled a goal back just before the interval and Roberto Firmino came off the bench to save the day for the home side.

In truth it might have been worse for the Gunners, as Salah missed a penalty and almost scored in the final minute. But the sheer guts on display from the title-chasers in a frantic encounter was hard to deny.

And when the dust settles, they will wonder whether they gifted Liverpool a way back into the game when Granit Xhaka was involved in a spat with Trent Alexander-Arnold at 2-0.

The clash seemed to energise the Reds and their fans and they pulled a goal back soon after, providing them with crucial momentum.

If Mikel Arteta’s men were looking for an early sign that this visit to Anfield would be very different from the previous six – which all ended in maulings – they got it after just eight minutes.

A slip by Andy Robertson gave Bukayo Saka the space he needed to drive forward and play it inside to Martin Odegaard and Virgil van Dijk’s attempted intercept of a return pass ran perfectly for Martinelli to toe-poke the ball past Alisson at the Kop End.

Soon after, the confidence and passing already flowing, Oleksandr Zinchenko tested Alisson with an angled drive.

Liverpool were not about to subside meekly, though. Dodgy away form has dogged them in this campaign but that is not the order of the day on home soil and the last fixture at Anfield was that 7-0 thrashing of Man United, lest we forget.

They had also lost just once on their famous turf in the league this season, to Leeds back in October and were in no mood to play second fiddle.

Fabinho’s chip found Robertson and a low shot inside the area only missed the far post by a whisker as the home fans willed their team to get back into it.

But Arsenal had a taste for this now and Martinelli’s cross was headed home by Jesus to put the Gunners in dreamland – the Brazilian rising unmarked between two defenders.

Yet the narrative was far from over.

Liverpool reduced the deficit before the break when Salah stabbed home at the far post after Diogo Jota’s cross from the left was helped on by Jordan Henderson.

And it should have been all square when Rob Holding was adjudged to have fouled Jota early in the second half, only for Salah to fire the resulting spot-kick wide of Aaron Ramsdale’s right-hand post.

The spells of pressure on Arsenal were colossal at times. Salah almost atoned for the penalty miss with a side-step and shot that Ramsdale did well to turn off target. The home fans were willing their team to turn it around.

Time and again, Gabriel was called upon to hold it all together at the back. He was magnificent. Ramsdale too, who kept his cool to smother a Darwin Nunez on the charge.

It looked like they had just about done it, but then came the cruel late blow as Alexander-Arnold managed to get to the byline past Zinchenko and hoist over a cross for Firmino to nod over the line.

The Reds might even have won it, but for another time save by Ramsdale to deny Salah and Ibrahima Konate.

It was breathless from start to finish and a gem of a match, even if it did not quite end at the visitors hoped.

Having conceded 22 goals in those previous abject visits and not won at this famous arena since 2012, this was a very much happier affair, at least, but in terms of the title race, who knows? Their lead is six points over City, who have a game in hand.

It may prove damaging, it may prove to be a crucial point. Either way, there is still quite a long way to go.

Reds: (4-3-3) Alisson - Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Robertson - Henderson, Fabinho (Firmino 79), Jones (Thiago 60) - Salah, Gakpo, Jota (Nunez 60). Subs not used: Kelleher, Gomez, Milner, Elliott, Tsimikas, Matip

Gunners: (4-3-3) Ramsdale - White, Holding, Gabriel, Zinchenko (Tierney 87) - Odegaard (Kiwior 80), Partey, Xhaka - Saka, Gabriel Jesus (Trossard 79), Martinelli. Subs not used: Turner, Smith-Rowe, Jorginho, Vieira, Nelson, Walters


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