Match report: Reds respond with hard-fought win over Arsenal
Liverpool took the spoils against a Premier League rival once again with a 3-1 victory over Arsenal at Anfield on Saturday night.
Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane struck goals for the Reds in the first half, taking turns apiece to set each other up as Jürgen Klopp’s side grew in confidence.
Danny Welbeck halved the deficit for the Gunners after the interval, but the home side preserved their lead and bagged a late third through Georginio Wijnaldum to maintain an unbeaten record in meetings with fellow top-six teams this season.
The key points…
- Firmino put Liverpool into ninth-minute lead
- Mane doubled advantage to reach dozen for the season
- Welbeck response not enough and Wijnaldum added third
- Reds leapfrog Arsenal in Premier League table
The team news…
Klopp made one change to his line-up, with Ragnar Klavan coming into the side in place of Lucas Leiva at centre-back. Dejan Lovren made the bench after a month out due to a knee injury.
The first half...
An eager start by Liverpool was to be expected, given the need for a response to Monday night’s defeat against Leicester City, and their buoyancy was punctuated by a welcome early opener.
Brazilian flair ran through the whole move.
Philippe Coutinho’s delicate header turned a rudimentary ball in the air into a chance for Adam Lallana to spring an unmarked Mane into space on the right and the forward’s cross to the back post found Firmino.
A touch to set himself and a confident drive into the roof of the net, and the Reds were in front.
Arsenal appeared undeterred by the setback initially and continued to probe for possible chances of their own by moving the ball as quickly as possible into their diamond of attacking players.
In the other direction, though, the high line being operated by the Gunners was almost exposed midway through the half when Mane dinked a pass into a completely free Firmino. Just offside.
When the visitors were deeper, determined pressing from Wijnaldum at the edge of the box allowed for a square to Coutinho, whose measured thump was tipped over the bar by Petr Cech.
As demanded by the manager in the week, this was far more reminiscent of the performance that had overwhelmed Tottenham Hotspur last time out at Anfield, with Klopp’s charges energetic and inventive.
And their endeavour was rewarded five minutes before the break.
As play was moved from left to right, Firmino threaded a sublime pass through the Arsenal defence to pick out Mane – and the Senegal international lashed in his 12th league goal of the season.
Coutinho might have notched a third before the break, too, but after exquisitely controlling a dropping ball in the area the No.10 prodded straight at the goalkeeper.
4 - Sadio Mane has scored and assisted in four Premier League games this season, more than any other player. Talisman.— OptaJoe (OptaJoe) 4th Mar 18:12
The second half...
Arsene Wenger introduced Alexis Sanchez at the outset of the second half and the Gunners were more dangerous immediately.
Simon Mignolet had already been forced to rush from his line and claw away a cross from the left before a similar delivery teed up Olivier Giroud for a trademark header which the Liverpool stopper superbly touched onto the bar.
Arsenal did reduce their arrears on 57 minutes, however.
Sanchez dispatched a slide-rule pass into the run of Welbeck off the left flank – despite a slight touch from Joel Matip – and the striker bounded through to dink a finish past Mignolet and the despairing goalline lunge of Klavan.
With an element of tension suddenly added to the occasion, the Reds found themselves under greater pressure yet simultaneously with plenty of opportunities to counter attack.
The correct final touch was eluding both sides, though, not least when Matip failed to head home from Coutinho’s perfect free-kick to the far post 15 minutes from time.
Substitute Divock Origi was inches away from putting the game beyond the Gunners when he glanced James Milner’s free-kick onto the base of the post.
But, after a crucial Matip block from Sanchez, Liverpool finally sealed the three points in stoppage-time as a breakaway saw Lallana play in Origi and the Belgian square for Wijnaldum to slam a low finish into the bottom corner.