Liverpool rain on Arsenal's parade with late stunner
Arsenal and Liverpool drew 3-3 in a brilliant Premier League clash on Wednesday night at Anfield which saw Joe Allen give the Reds a share of the points in the final minute.
"At 3-2, both teams had a low battery," Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp said. "We scored with a perfect pass, perfect header, perfect finish and nobody doubts it was deserved."
Olivier Giroud and Roberto Firmino each scored twice as both teams enjoyed a wild opening period that saw four goals in fifteen minutes. A fair result, and a fine spectacle, the result leaves Arsenal atop the Premier League table on goal difference but tied on points with the Foxes after Leicester downed Tottenham 1-0.
Liverpool came into the game carrying an injury list that would be familiar to any Arsenal fan. Phillipe Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge, Dejan Lovren and Martin Skrtel were all out for Klopp, and before the game, the German played down their chances against the Premier League leaders.
But, perhaps with the memories of a famous 5-1 shellacking in their minds, Liverpool did anything but sit back, instead going for the throat on the kickoff. That led to a wonderfully open -- if defensively inept -- showcase that put a premium on fast movement and all-out attack. To be sure, it was thrilling.
"People will talk about this game," Klopp said. ''It's not easy to forget."
Firmino broke the game open early, fizzing in a rebound in the tenth minute. Theo Walcott had tried to take the ball out of the back only to concede possession poorly, allowing Emre Can a shot from the edge of the area that took a nick off Hector Bellerin and forced Petr Cech into a sprawling parry. But the ball only carried to the edge of the six-yard box -- and Firmino belted it through the legs of Laurent Koscielny and in at the near post.
"We went 1-0 down and then we started to play," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger noted. "We come out of the game with a lot of positive but still some regrets."
But just minutes later, Giroud and Mamadou Sakho clashed heads in the middle of the park, and with play continuing, Joel Campbell collected the ball and threaded a gorgeous pass to Aaron Ramsey, who one-timed the ball to the near post through keeper Simon Mignolet. Liverpool seemed to stop on the play and there was a mild sense of injustice â but the truth was it was Giroud who came off worse in the challenge and the Gunners were fully entitled to play on.
The goals kept coming: Firmino gave the Reds the lead back just three minutes later, blasting in a scorcher from the edge of the area that curled in beautifully to the far top corner. James Milner had set the play up after another cheap concession by Arsenal in the back, but that should take nothing away from the quality of Firmino's strike.
The lead would not last. Storming through the Liverpool defense, Ramsey tried to chip the ball over Mignolet and in, taking a hard shot from the keeper for his troubles as Sakho cleared the ball off the line and over the bar. But on the ensuing corner, the ball was whipped in by Ramsey and Giroud was able to get a toe to it to just tip it right through Mignolet's legs.
Arsenal nearly grabbed the lead just minutes after that, with Mignolet forced into a scorpion clearance when Campbell and Walcott burst through the right side to sent a skittering cross in Giroud's direction. Mignolet is no Rene Higuita, but then again Giroud is no Diego Armando Maradona, and the keeper's intervention was enough to save a sure goal.
Still, as the half wore on, you felt that Arsenal, at sea in the opening minutes, were finally taking charge. And after the break, Giroud made their dominance count with a superb strike in the 55th minute.
James Milner was left in a heap in the middle of the field, and Bellerin collected to storm down the far flank with Campbell in support. Campbell saw his cross deflected, but only to the feet of Giroud, and the Frenchman took a step, turned and then lashed a curler to the top corner. It was not the equal of Firmino's goal earlier in the game, but on any day, it was a fine goal, and it gave the Gunners the lead.
Liverpool kept pouring forward, looking noticeably more ragged as the game wore on. Alberto Moreno came close with twenty to play as his speculative shot took a big cut off Campbell, but the sense was that Arsenal were happy to allow Liverpool some freedom in the middle, but little space in the final third.
Still, under Klopp, Liverpool have played with far more abandon, and as the snow swirled down, Arsenal were put under increasing pressure. Allen, who had been a peripheral figure, came on as a late sub and made the impact, running on to a ball knocked down by Christian Benteke to beat a despairing Cech at the post.
Information from FOX Soccer's wire services was used in this report