Belfast Telegraph

Liverpool revived by Brendan Rodgers' touch as Arsenal fail to breach Kop defences

Arsenal 0-0 Liverpool

By Sam Wallace

As a man who spent the summer no doubt reliving the horrors of his team's six-goal demolition at the Britannia Stadium in May, it will surely be enough for now for Brendan Rodgers that Liverpool have not conceded a goal three games into a season that he desperately needed to start well.

It took Stoke just 30 minutes to score those first three goals on 24 May, but Rodgers' rebuilt side - much more conservative in the game's defining periods - have now come through one of the most exacting tests that the Premier League has to offer.

Liverpool dominated the first half but, when Rodgers realised the tide was turning against him after the break, he fought his attacking instincts and made three substitutions to consolidate the draw.

For Arsène Wenger, there was pure frustration. His team was outplayed in the first half, but had a perfectly good Aaron Ramsey goal disallowed.

In the second half, they encircled Liverpool and were just missing the decisive touch in front of goal. A pity for them that it looks like there will be no convincing Karim Benzema to leave Real Madrid.

It is one point from two home games for Arsenal and there was a familiar regret around the ground as the breakthrough did not come.

They were kept in the game by Petr Cech before the break and there were times when Alexis Sanchez looked like he might win it on his own in the second half.

Wenger's substitutions were designed to win the game, bringing on Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but they couldn't break Liverpool down.

The first half was Liverpool's although, for all their dominance, they were the beneficiary of the kind of bad decision that will recur in the mind of referees' chief Mike Riley every time he thinks of the weekend's appointments. It was simply an offside decision called wrongly by linesman Simon Bennett in the eighth minute.

It was a beautiful ball by Santi Cazorla to bisect the Liverpool defence followed by a good run and finish from Ramsey, who was clearly level when the pass was released. No excuses for getting it wrong and immediately the game felt out of kilter.

As for Arsenal, that was as good as it got in the first half. They had already seen Philippe Coutinho's shot strike the bar on three minutes and there was precious little respite after that.

Without both Per Mertesacker, who was unwell, and the injured Laurent Koscielny, it was always a stretch to imagine that Gabriel and Calum Chambers would be up to it. Against one of the best attacking performances of the season so far, it was a wonder they got to half-time without conceding.

That was a consequence of a major performance from Cech.

There was a back-post save from Christian Benteke when Rodgers already had his arms in the air to celebrate. There was a fingertip touch to a Coutinho shot from the left that took the ball on to the post.

The disallowed goal aside, it was hard for Arsenal to get out of their own half and put pressure on Liverpool. They had none of those sustained periods of possession around the opposition box that can build up momentum and pressure.

That changed after half-time when Sanchez moved front and centre for an Arsenal side that was no longer prepared to be dominated.

Sanchez set the standard with a couple of those scampering chasedowns of possessions he specialises in. Arsenal were much more like Arsenal, encamped on the perimeter of the Liverpool area and determined to inflict death by high-intensity passing.

Rodgers called upon Jordon Ibe around the hour to give Roberto Firmino a breather.

Coutinho had all but disappeared on the left wing and Benteke did not dominate the two Arsenal centre-halves anything like he had in the first half, but Liverpool hung in there and defended in the moments when the pressure grew. There was an excellent Simon Mignolet save from Olivier Giroud on 69 minutes.

The home crowd had been calling for Walcott for a short time before that and he came on in place of Giroud, who had missed enough half-chances to make up Wenger's mind that it was time for a switch. Giroud's best moment was a flick into the path of Sanchez from Cazorla's pass on the hour and the Chilean forward hit the outside of the post.

Rodgers ignored attacking options Danny Ings and Divock Origi and instead reinforced his side with a league debut for Jordan Rossiter, sporting the kind of haircut Steven Gerrard had around the millennium, and then finally replaced Coutinho with Alberto Moreno.

That was the indication, were any needed, that the point would do nicely for them.

In defence of their embattled manager it has suited them very well indeed.

Belfast Telegraph


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