Alexandre Lacazette’s Glorious Goal Earns Arsenal A Point Against Liverpool

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Unai Emery wants to write a new history at Arsenal. It is one of his buzz phrases and he reaches for it at every available opportunity. On a frenetic night in north London, the club’s new manager could delight in a performance of intensity and old-fashioned guts.

Would the team of the later Arsène Wenger years have fought back to equalise in the closing stages? Would they have continued to believe against opposition as streetwise as Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool? The point was no more than Arsenal deserved and it came when Alexandre Lacazette nipped on to a pass from the substitute Alex Iwobi and outfoxed Alisson, who had been lured off his line, before curling home.

Boldness has underpinned Emery’s tenure so far and he had rolled the dice on 80 minutes, replacing the left-back Sead Kolasinac with the forward Danny Welbeck. Emery had previously introduced Iwobi and now he asked the winger to drop in at left-back. It was hugely gratifying for the manager to see Iwobi play his part in the equaliser.

Klopp said with a smile: “We’ve seen Arsenal do it already a few times this year, when they’ve brought on pretty much all their strikers – I was actually waiting for Van Persie and Bergkamp.”

The frustration for Arsenal was that they failed to win. This had been billed as the occasion for them to find a statement victory against a big-six rival. Instead, the statistics show that they have won only three of their last 28 such fixtures. Emery began his reign with back-to-back defeats against Manchester City and Chelsea. Yet the applause from the home support upon the final whistle told its own story. Arsenal had gone toe-to-toe with Liverpool throughout. The evolution under Emery is plain.

Liverpool did not know what to make of it. They had seen what would have been an 18th-minute Sadio Mané goal contentiously disallowed for offside while the centre-half Virgil van Dijk could have had a hat-trick. The first of his chances was the best and he hit the post with the second.

For all of their front-foot football, Arsenal did not have the same number of clearcut opportunities. Klopp’s team were in control at 1-0 on the back of James Milner’s goal and it is always a bitter pill to be pegged back late on. But, as their manager noted, a draw at Arsenal is “absolutely a good result”. Liverpool remain unbeaten in the Premier League.

The Mané incident represented the controversy because when he tapped home after Roberto Firmino’s shot had come back off the woodwork, he was onside in the second phase of play. It was the prompt for a Liverpool purple patch in which the big chance fell for Van Dijk but, from Mohamed Salah’s cross, he shot too close to Bernd Leno.

Arsenal had started the brighter. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang saw a shot diverted wide by Joe Gomez and Henrikh Mkhitaryan looped a header inches off target after Alisson had come for a cross and failed to get there. The home team pushed again after the half-hour, with Aubameyang going close and Lacazette dragging wide when well-placed. The first-half ended with Van Dijk beating Leno to a Milner free-kick only to see his header hit the upright.

Klopp switched to 4-2-3-1 at the start of the second half, moving Milner to the right and asking Salah to play up top with Firmino in behind. It was Milner who got forward to break the deadlock. The goal was a bad moment for Leno, who Emery had started ahead of Petr Cech in the clearest sign so far that he is the club’s No 1. When Mané crossed low from the left, Leno’s footwork was not good enough and he stretched for the ball, pushing it out into a dangerous area. It flicked off Rob Holding and broke for Milner, who lashed home.

The impressive Lucas Torreira extended Alisson shortly afterwards but the tide had turned. Liverpool were in charge and they almost extended their lead. Firmino was off target with a header from one corner; van Dijk worked Leno from another. The last word, however, would go to Lacazette.

[Guardian UK]

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