Arsenal beat lacklustre Liverpool to close gap

Arsenal beat lacklustre Liverpool to close gap

LONDON-- Arsenal spiced up an already intriguing Premier League title race as they beat lacklustre leaders Liverpool 3-1 to slice the gap to two points and move into second spot on Sunday.

Arsenal deserved the points that lifted them above Manchester City although they would not have expected a helping hand from Virgil van Dijk and Alisson whose comic mix-up allowed Gabriel Martinelli to restore their lead in the 67th minute. Substitute Leandro Trossard then soothed any late nerves among the Emirates faithful as he secured the victory in stoppage time with a shot through Alisson's legs. Bukayo Saka had given Arsenal an early lead with a cool finish in the 14th minute but a Gabriel own goal on the stroke of halftime undid all of their good work. Heading for only their second league defeat of the season, both in north London, Liverpool's frustrations boiled over as Ibrahima Konate was sent off in the closing minutes for a second booking after a foul on Kai Havertz. Arsenal's title challenge had waned at the start of the year but a third successive win lifted them to second on 49 points to Liverpool's 51 with both clubs having played 23 games. Champions Manchester City, who play on Monday, have 46 from 21 games. "It was a kick in the teeth to concede so late after having a really good first half, but we knew we had a really big 45 minutes in our season," Arsenal's Declan Rice said. "We were top at Christmas and then had a few sloppy results. We seem to have ourselves back on the right track." For the fourth Premier League game in a row between the sides Arsenal got their noses in front early. Liverpool were sluggish and Saka had already gone close to scoring with a glancing header from Martinelli's cross before the visitors were picked apart by a silky passing move. Martin Odegaard's first-time pass released Havertz and although the former Chelsea striker's shot lacked conviction it rebounded off Alisson's chest and Saka took a touch before confidently sweeping home the rebound. There was a conspicuous lack of a response by a disjointed Liverpool and they could count themselves fortunate to reach halftime on level terms, courtesy of an Arsenal gift. Arsenal defender William Saliba, under pressure from Luis Diaz, attempted to shepherd the ball back towards his keeper David Raya but the ball broke loose and the retreating Gabriel ended up bundling it into his own goal. Dominant Half It was a deflating end to a dominant half by the hosts and for a few minutes at the start of the second period they were wobbling as Liverpool had a flurry of goal attempts, the best a curling effort just wide from Curtis Jones. But Liverpool boss Juergen Klopp was clearly not happy with what he was witnessing and made a triple substitution just before the hour with Andy Robertson, Harvey Elliott and Darwin Nunez all coming on. Any Klopp plan was dismantled though by a horrible mix-up between two of his most reliable lieutenants. A punt forward looked like a simple mopping up job for Van Dijk but he allowed the ball to bounce, a panicking Alisson kicked thin air and Martinelli was left with the simple task of putting the ball into an unguarded net. "It was a tough day," Van Dijk said. "I take full responsibility for the 2-1 goal, it was a big turning point. It hurts for me and for the rest of the team." Trossard's goal, which deflected off of Van Dijk's shin and through Alisson's legs, rubber-stamped a result that will sow a few seeds of doubt at Anfield. "Congratulations to Arsenal. We were not good enough today," Klopp said. "It just shows the boys are human beings."

The Daily Herald

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