Match Report: Arsenal 3-4 Liverpool

Arsenal’s suffered another humbling and embarrassing defeat on the opening day of a new Premier League season as Liverpool turned on a superb attacking display in the second half to snatch all three points from their trip to north London.

After taking the lead in the first half through Theo Walcott’s opener, Philippe Coutinho’s wonderful free-kick brought the sides level on the brink of half time before three quickfire goals from Adam Lallana, Coutinho again and Sadio Mane at the start of the second half gave Liverpool a 4-1 lead. The home side responded with goals from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Calum Chambers but it proved to be too little, too late as they succumbed to their third defeat in their last four opening day games at home.

The Gunners went into the game without the likes of Laurent Koscielny, Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud after their extended breaks this summer, whilst injuries to Per Mertesacker and Gabriel Paulista meant the inexperienced duo of Calum Chambers and Rob Holding were partnered up in the heart of their defence. The visitors had a few injury concerns of their own, with England internationals James Milner and Daniel Sturridge both absent with short-term injuries.

On a glorious and sun-drenched Sunday afternoon at the Emirates Stadium, the home side started strongly, with the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Alexis Sanchez combining well as the team knocked the ball about with pace and accuracy. After starting well they soon had a superb chance to take the lead as a rash tackle from Alberto Moreno on Theo Walcott in the box saw the referee blow his whistle and award a penalty.

The Englishman opted to take the spot-kick himself but after a poorly taken shot that was at a very saveable height for Simon Mignolet, the Belgian stopper dutifully saved the penalty to send the away fans into ruptures. Their joy was short-lived, however, as around 60 seconds after the missed penalty, Alex Iwobi’s pass found Walcott in acres of space and he immediately made amends by driving the ball low and hard into the opposite corner of the goal.

Arsenal were buoyed by their goal and looked set on ending the half on top, but after Holding was deemed to have put his hand on Coutinho and fouled him on the edge of the area, the Brazilian midfielder took the opportunity afforded to him and hit and perfectly placed free-kick past Petr Cech and into the top corner of the net. Liverpool had had a poor first half but found themselves going in level at the break.

Liverpool’s equalizer gave them early momentum in the second half and after a complete capitulation from the Arsenal defence, the away side found themselves 4-1 up just past the hour mark. Their lead came after a chipped ball from new signing Georginio Wijnaldum was chested down by the onrushing Adam Lallana, and after taking it in his stride he knocked the ball past Cech and into the net.

Their third was superbly crafted, with a great number of passes culminating in Nathaniel Clyne managing to get a driven cross in past Nacho Monreal and into the path of Coutinho, with the playmaker beating Holding to the ball and leaving Cech with little chance of saving his effort. Arsenal were rattled, the home crowd were aghast and Liverpool were in dreamland, and before they all knew it, it was four – Mane, signed from Southampton this summer, received the ball out wide, beat two men and then fired a rising strike into the corner of the net, all but finishing Arsenal’s chances of coming away with the points.

In amongst all the chaos Arsenal had lost both Alex Iwobi and Aaron Ramsey to injury, and one of the substitutes, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, came on to immediately give life to the unlikeliest of comebacks. Less that two minutes after Mane’s wondergoal, Oxlade-Chamberlain scored a solo goal of his own as he cut in front the left and hit a deflected strike past Mignolet to bring it back to 4-2.

Arsenal’s new signing Grant Xhaka came on with around 25 minutes to go but failed to make a positive impact, committing four fouls and picking up a yellow card in his brief cameo. Another substitute, Santi Cazorla, did make a significant contribution however, delivering a superb ball from a free-kick that Chambers glanced home with his head. It was 4-3 and with 15 minutes still on the clock, it looked like the Gunners could actually get a point out of the game.

However, Liverpool did a good job of seeing the game out, keeping the ball well and reducing Arsenal’s attacking potency until the full-time whistle came and went. When the loss was confirmed, sections of the home crowd booed just as they had done in 2015 against West Ham and in 2013 against Aston Villa, and immediately the toxic atmosphere that has plagued the club in recent years came to the forefront again.

Callum Perritt

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