Arsenal hold Liverpool in title showdown to seal top spot at Christmas

A draw was arguably the right result after Arsenal and Liverpool flexed their muscles to show why they have emerged as the leading contenders to win the title.
| Photo Credit: Reuters

Arsenal ensured they will spend Christmas Day on top of the Premier League as they held title rivals Liverpool to a pulsating 1-1 draw at Anfield on Saturday.

Mikel Arteta’s side took an early lead through Gabriel Magalhaes, but Mohamed Salah hauled Liverpool level before the interval.

A draw was arguably the right result after both sides flexed their muscles to show why they have emerged as the leading contenders to win the title.

Chasing a first title since 2004, Arsenal sit one point clear of second placed Liverpool heading into the festive period.

The team that has topped the Premier League at Christmas has gone on to win the title in six of the past 10 seasons, but the draw on Merseyside was also a boost to the chasing pack.

Third placed Aston Villa are level on points with Liverpool, fourth placed Tottenham are three points further back, while champions Manchester City are six points adrift of the leaders with a game in hand.

Liverpool are unbeaten in their past 11 games against Arsenal at Anfield.

However, coming a week after their goalless stalemate against Manchester United, this was another frustrating result for Jurgen Klopp’s team.

“Oh my god, how strong are they? The good news is we are good as well,” Klopp said.

“We pass instead of shoot, four or five times we do that, it’s a lesson. But generally the game is great.”

Arsenal weren’t completely satisfied either.

Last season they led 2-0 at Liverpool but ended up drawing 2-2, a result that started their collapse in the title race.

Their failure to hold on this time should not have such a damaging impact, but it was still a missed opportunity.

“Proud of the performance but the final pass went astray a few times. That’s where the frustration lies,” Arsenal forward Bukayo Saka said.

Klopp had urged Liverpool fans to give Arsenal the “proper Anfield experience” after saying he was unhappy with the atmosphere during Wednesday’s 5-1 rout of West Ham in the League Cup.

But Arteta was well aware of the maelstrom lying in wait, likening the visceral Anfield experience to being thrown around in a “washing machine”.

Red wave

Responding to Klopp, the Liverpool faithful bellowed their ‘You’ll never walk alone’ anthem as loudly as ever before kick-off, but Arsenal took just 30 seconds to show they were unfazed.

A flowing move cut open the Liverpool defence and ended with Gabriel Jesus’s shot deflecting just over.

It was a warning and Arsenal took the lead after only four minutes.

Martin Odegaard delivered a perfect free-kick into the Liverpool area and Gabriel rose to thump his header past Alisson Becker from eight yards.

The Brazilian defender celebrated by cupping his hands to his ears in front of the Kop.

Anfield was stunned but not silenced. Falling behind was nothing new to Liverpool, who had trailed in eight other Premier League games this season and only lost one of them.

Liverpool were controversially denied a penalty by VAR when Odegaard handled in the area after slipping under pressure from Salah.

Salah took it upon himself to ensure Liverpool weren’t left to rue that debatable decision as the Egyptian conjured a superb 29th minute equaliser.

Trent Alexander-Arnold’s raking pass picked out Salah down the right flank and he glided away from Oleksandr Zinchenko into the area before smashing a fierce strike past David Raya at his near post.

A thrilling half concluded with Arteta holding his head when Gabriel Martinelli shot wide moments after Saka ran through on goal but failed to finish.

Klopp’s men had the momentum after the break and Joe Gomez rifled inches wide, while Harvey Elliott’s long-range strike deflected onto the post.

They should have been in front in the 73rd minute when a break from an Arsenal corner climaxed with Salah teeing up Alexander-Arnold, but the ball took a slight bobble and his shot cannoned back off the crossbar with just Raya to beat.

As the relentless Red wave kept surging toward the Kop, Gomez’s effort drew a good stop from Raya, but Arsenal held on.

Source website: www.thehindu.com

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