Belfast Telegraph

Careless Arsenal draw no comfort from bagging a point against Liverpool

Liverpool 3-3 Arsenal

By Mark Ogden

Just as Arsenal looked set to throw down the gauntlet in the title race, they dropped it on their toes by allowing Joe Allen to snatch a 90th-minute equaliser for Liverpool at Anfield.

Reds manager Jurgen Klopp celebrated in the style of Jose Mourinho by sprinting down the touchline and punching the air after two substitutes - Allen and Christian Benteke - combined to salvage a point.

But while Liverpool toasted a point as though it were three, Arsenal could only shake their heads at the two they had thrown away on a night when Manchester City had failed to close the gap by drawing at home to Everton.

Olivier Giroud's two goals looked set to win the game for Arsenal, but they let it slip and must now bounce back at Stoke, their bogey ground, on Sunday.

Arsenal's form away from the Emirates was emerging as a potential Achilles heel for their title aspirations before they arrived at Anfield.

This was Arsene Wenger's team's first outing on the road since the 4-0 defeat at Southampton on Boxing Day and they faced Liverpool having secured just one Premier League away win - against bottom club Aston Villa - since a 3-0 victory at Swansea on Halloween.

The league leaders started slowly, though, and allowed Liverpool to build early momentum. And after Adam Lallana was rightly denied a penalty in the sixth minute by referee Mike Jones after stumbling into Per Mertesacker, Liverpool took the lead with a 10th-minute opener from Firmino.

It was a bad one from Arsenal's perspective, though, with goalkeeper Petr Cech proving fallible when dealing with Emre Can's initial shot.

Rather than push the ball to safety, Cech palmed it straight back into play and it dropped to Firmino, who took a touch before guiding his shot into the net.

Liverpool remain a work in progress at the back, however, and their problems were exacerbated with first-choice centre-halves Martin Skrtel and Dejan Lovren both ruled out with injuries.

Kolo Touré and Mamadou Sakho are a noticeable downgrade and Arsenal capitalised on their uncertainty just four minutes after the opener by equalising through Ramsey.

Joel Campbell was given too much time and the Costa Rican fed Ramsey with a reverse pass before the midfielder beat goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.

Cech was powerless when Firmino scored again five minutes later to restore Liverpool's lead with another outstanding finish.

James Milner's deft lay-off made the goal for Firmino, who opened up his body before unleashing an unstoppable right-foot curler.

Klopp's faith was being repaid by Firmino, but once again those frailties at the back resurfaced to allow Arsenal back into the game.

After Sakho had done well to clear Ramsey's goalbound lob off the line, Giroud equalised on 26 minutes by diverting Mesut Ozil's corner past Mignolet.

The Belgian should have stopped it, but he made amends three minutes later by keeping out another Giroud effort with his heel.

Having lost the lead twice, Liverpool's anxiety and that of the crowd grew with every misplaced pass in the second half, and Arsenal's superior quality was a key factor behind the pendulum swinging towards Wenger's men.

Walcott's pace was a constant threat - the winger shot narrowly wide following a 40-yard run - and Giroud's strength gave Arsenal a platform to build attacks.

The French forward divides opinion, but there could be no questioning his second goal, which showcased the best of Robin van Persie in his Arsenal pomp.

Having received Campbell's deflected pass, Giroud turned Touré brilliantly before sending a crisp left-foot shot beyond Mignolet.

It should have been the winner, with Liverpool struggling to land a punch until Allen struck in the dying minutes of a pulsating contest.

A point at Anfield is never a bad result for a title-chasing team, but this was two points dropped for Arsenal, make no mistake.



LIVERPOOL: Mignolet, Clyne, Touré, Sakho, Moreno, Henderson, Can (Allen 82), Milner (Benteke 66), Ibe, Firmino, Lallana (Caulker 88).

Goals: Firmino 10, 19, Allen 90

Subs not used: Lucas, Smith, Ward, Teixeira.

ARSENAL: Cech, Bellerín, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Ramsey, Flamini, Campbell (Oxlade-Chamberlain 75), Özil (Arteta 87), Walcott (Gibbs 76), Giroud.

Goals: Ramsey 14, Giroud 25, 55

Subs not used: Gabriel, Chambers, Iwobi, Macey.

Man of the match: Giroud (pictured) Match rating: 8/10

Referee: Mike Jones

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