Goals, in abundance, were expected when Arsenal hosted Liverpool on Friday night and it was another hectic, chaotic affair.
The fixture had produced 27 goals in the last five meetings: that gave an idea about not only the teams’ attacking prowess but their utter panic in defence. And it was much of the same as Liverpool, who were at one point leading 2-0, conceded three goals in five minutes, but salvaged a 3-3 draw at the Emirates Stadium.
Barring Mesut Ozil’s goal for Arsenal, the remaining five were conceded more due to defensive errors rather than attacking brilliance.
With their leading forwards firing, Liverpool had owned the first half. The Reds made meaningful runs upfield, with more purpose and determination. Just after the half-hour mark, Roberto Firmino, placed on the left side of the box, cleverly cut inside but hit his shot just over the crossbar.
It was Philippe Coutinho who scored the opener in the 26th minute. Mohamed Salah stormed down the right flank, dragging Arsenal skipper Laurent Koscielny with him, and his low cross deflected off the Frenchman and came at a comfortable height for Coutinho. The Brazilian had sprinted down from midfield, unopposed, to get into position and cleverly looped his header over Petr Cech in goal.
Salah should have doubled the lead in the 40th minute, but his shot was saved by Cech and Sadio Mane’s acrobatic follow-up sailed over the goal. Moments later, Mane squared a pass in the box to Salah, but the Egyptian failed to connect.
He did get on the scoresheet though, netting his 15th of the Premier League season in the 52nd minute. But within the next five minutes, Arsenal would turn the match around, scoring three through Alexis Sanchez, Granit Xhaka and Ozil to take a 3-2 lead. This came after the hosts had put on a disjointed display in the first half.
“You need to be angry with yourself, not sad or insecure,” said Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, blaming his inefficient defence for defeat. “So we gave them a chance, we opened the door for them in these five minutes and they, with all respect, took the chances.”
Firmino would eventually have to wait till the 71st minute before giving Liverpool the equalizer.
For the neutrals, the match was a gripping and pacy affair, especially in the second half, as both teams put on a scintillating display of counter-attacking football. Yet the two teams will need to be more assertive in defence. While Arsenal’s backline was headed by the under-performing Koscielny, Liverpool conceded the second goal due to goalkeeper Simon Mignolet failing to read a long-range shot that actually came straight at him.
So weak was the defensive performance by both teams, that despite scoring three goals, neither could get the win.