Liverpool 3-1 Arsenal

Liverpool 3-1 Arsenal: Diogo Jota scores on his home debut to seal victory for champions and send them above Everton after Andy Robertson made amends for earlier error to give Reds lead 

  • Premier League champions Liverpool made it three wins from three on Monday
  • Arsenal’s Alexandre Lacazette opened the scoring after Andy Robertson’s error
  • But Liverpool’s Sadio Mane levelled the scores three minutes later with a tap-in
  • Robertson atoned for his mistake by putting the Reds in front with a neat finish
  • And new signing Diogo Jota made sure of all three points with a late volley 

Two goals and five assists, in eight Premier League matches. Just as well Andrew Robertson is called upon to defend as well, or who knows how dangerous he would be. Graeme Souness says Liverpool could walk this title defence and, so far, there has been little to suggest he is wrong. Liverpool went behind against the odds here, but bounced back immediately to secure a third straight season win. 

There was even time for new signing Diogo Jota to score his first goal for the club, the one that gave Liverpool a deserved margin a victory and put the outcome beyond doubt. Alexander-Arnold crossed, David Luiz’s clearing header did not make the distance and Jota struck a low bobbling shot that slotted in at the corner, goalkeeper Bernd Leno stranded. 

So the best team won and Lacazette’s poor finishing – Alisson stopped one with his chest, and simply patted down the attempted Messi-like chip – was just another example of the distance between these teams. With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang unusually quiet, Liverpool have better finishers in their back four than many teams have in their forward lines. Winners from Robertson, assists from Alexander-Arnold, Liverpool’s defence starts at their most forward point, and their attack begins in defence. 

This has been a tough start to the season – wild card Leeds, Chelsea away and now an improving Arsenal –and their 100 per cent record remains intact. With the two Manchester clubs dropping points, Chelsea and Tottenham lacking consistency, catch us if you can would appear to be the message from Anfield.

They set a blistering pace last season and are challenging rivals to live with them again. And while, yes, it could have been different had Alexandre Lacazette not spurned two second-half opportunities against goalkeeper Alisson, Arsenal are a club with ambitions of their own. They were never going to be entirely docile at Anfield.Only Everton and Leicester have been able to stand the pace even at this early juncture. 

When Jurgen Klopp speaks of his mentality monsters, the image is immediately conjured of the way his Liverpool team chase and harry, the energy they expel, the enormous effort that gets them through match after match, challenge after challenge. Yet it is even more than that, really. Liverpool’s mentality is bravery and accountability, too, so that if a player makes a mistake his instinct is to atone, not to make excuses or shift the blame. 

That is what Andrew Robertson did in the first-half here. He was at fault for the first goal of the night, which put Arsenal ahead entirely against the run of play; but he responded by scoring the third goal of the game, which gave a deserved 34th minute lead to Liverpool. There were just nine minutes between the two events: that’s mentality.

And Arsenal’s is improving under Mikel Arteta, that much is clear. They came to Anfield with something recognisable as resolve, which has not always been apparent in recent visits. Coming into this game, Arsenal had played 27 away fixtures against fellow members of the Premier League’s big six, since they last tasted victory. January 18, 2015 – a 2-0 win at Manchester City that is now so distant only Hector Bellerin remains at the club in a playing capacity from the 14 players featuring that day. It is an abysmal record really – just ten points gleaned from a possible 81 against clubs Arsenal consider equals or rivals. 

And while they led for just 147 seconds in the first-half on Monday – and scored from their first touch inside Liverpool’s penalty area after 25 minutes – at least there was early evidence of a resolve. Arsenal were trying to tough it out, even if Bernd Leno’s determination to pass to players standing deeper than the edge of his own six yard box borders on self-harm at times.

David Luiz is a tidy footballer, but even he shouldn’t be receiving it there and too often Arsenal were working overtime just to reach the edge of their own penalty area, given Liverpool’s penchant for the highest press. It puts the back line on edge, evidenced when Luiz mopped up from a Virgil van Dijk header, when his goalkeeper looked to have the danger covered. 

Did Liverpool, and specifically Sadio Mane, get lucky after just three minutes when the Liverpool man fended off Kieran Tierney with an arm, striking his face? Possibly. It did not looked like an elbow, but Mane knew what he was doing, and it most certainly was not his shoulder that did the harm, despite what he indicated to referee Craig Pawson. Had the official taken a second look, or had he been invited to, he might have considered an upgrade. As it was, he decided a yellow card was sufficient.

So Mane lived to fight another day and in the 15th minute almost opened the scoring when he struck a low cross from Trent Alexander-Arnold straight at Leno. It was still a decent save though, requiring quick reflexes. Liverpool came close again after 21 minutes – a Robertson corner, cleared and then returned by Alexander-Arnold, his shot deflected onto the bar by Bellerin. 

A goal was coming, though, just not at the end anyone expected. Arsenal were yet to venture into Liverpool’s penalty area when a comedy of errors somehow game them the lead. Nobody covered themselves in glory here, not even the goalscorer. Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ cross was, frankly, poor because it went straight to a Liverpool player. Robertson’s attempted clearance was amusingly sloppy, because it went directly behind him, a miskick of mystifying incompetence.

Alexandre Lacazette would have been offside to any reasonable Arsenal pass, but it didn’t matter as the ball came off a Liverpool boot. With only goalkeeper Alisson to beat, he miscued completely and dealt the ball a harmless glancing blow into the turf. Fortunately, it didn’t matter because Alisson was already committed to his dive so the ball simply bounced up and looped over his frame into the net. Not one for anybody’s highlights reel, that. 

And no doubt it stung the champions, hence the revival. From the next attack, less than two minutes later, they were level. Mentality again. Credit to referee Pawson first, because his assistant was flagging furiously for a foul by Granit Xhaka on Naby Keita, which he ignored in favour of a smart advantage. How fortuitous that proved. The loose ball was picked up by Mohamed Salah who cut inside from the right and unleashed a shot which Leno parried to the feet of Mane, for a simple conversion. Just seven minutes later, Liverpool were ahead, amends impressively made by Robinson.

The attack came down the same flank as the first, Salah feeding the ball back to Alexander-Arnold whose crosses were causing Arsenal a great deal of trouble. Two men went for this one, neither got it, but the ball did clip Rob Holding’s head. In swept Robertson who took a touch to pass Leno before prodding the ball into the net. And that’s how you say sorry. Sometimes it really isn’t the hardest word.

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