Arsenal (2) 2 Liverpool (1) 1
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Wednesday, 15th July 2020. Kick-off time: 8.15pm
(3-4-3) Emiliano Martínez; Rob Holding, David Luiz, Kieran Tierney; Cédric Soares; Lucas Torreira, Granit Xhaka, Reiss Nelson; Bukayo Saka, Nicolas Pépé, Alexandre Lacazette.
Substitutes: Hector Bellerin, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Dani Ceballos, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Shkodran Mustafi, Joe Willock, Sead Kolašinac, Matt Macey.
Scorers: Alexandre Lacazette (32 mins), Reiss Nelson (43 mins)
Yellow Cards: Lucas Torreira, Granit Xhaka, Dani Ceballos
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 31%
Referee: Paul Tierney
Attendance: A maximum of 300 attendees due to UK government coronavirus restructions
Is there ever a good time to play the Premiership champions elect? No, Not really. Hang on! Is there ever a good time to play Liverpool? No, not really. After the disastrous defensive display last Sunday in the North London derby, assertiveness and concentration will be the order of the day today. Any which way you look at it, this will be a difficult contest tonight, make no mistake about it.
The most exciting thing to happen in the first five minutes was the sound of fireworks from outside of the stadium; other than that it was a rather sluggish start to an end-of-season Premiership game. Our midfield started to look more solid with Lucas Torreira committing himself to important tackles on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sadio Mane, but soon the visitors started to assert themselves with Roberto Firmino hitting the post with a clearance from Emiliano Martínez that rebounded off his leg. The visitors started to push the ball around in our half more confidently, with our chaps struggling to break out; although we were doing well in holding Liverpool, the inevitable came in the nineteenth minute when Sadio Mane ran in between Rob Holding and David Luiz to score from just outside the six-yard box after a pinpoint cross from Andy Robertson. After the drinks break, the visitors merely continued where they left off with closing down our midfield and using their full-backs to get behind our defence to fire crosses in to their strikers at will. After half an hour, Alexandre Lacazette capitalised on a poor pass from Virgil van Dijk, went round the Liverpool goalie and equalised with a superb close finish. Now we have a contest! The visitors were knocked off their stride with our goal, and we started to play with purpose. Cédric Soares was being first to the tackle now, and Kieran Tierney was playing with confidence winning balls and spraying passes up the pitch. With two minutes to go before the break, young Reiss Nelson received a cross from Alexandre Lacazette (who picked up the ball after a schoolboy error from Andy Robertson) and slotted the ball into the corner to put us into the lead for half-time.
Within a minute of the restart, Lucas Torreira received a yellow card for a late challenge on Trent Alexander-Arnold, and he himself got the same punishment from referee Paul Tierney when he felled Bukayo Saka a minute or so later. Now it was Liverpool’s turn to apply pressure, with one or two chances that tested our defenders, but despite some troubled moments, the defence held firm. Emiliano Martínez tipped a Mo Salah attempt ovr the bar, whilst Lucas Torreira, Alexandre Lacazette and Reiss Nelson were replaced by Dani Ceballos, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Joe Willock to sharpen things up after fifty-eight minutes. The visitors started to apply pressure down the middle of the pitch, and although scoring chances were created, the Arsenal defence held firm. With the amount of pressure that Liverpool were putting us under, it is a case of all hands to the pumps, and the best that we can hope for now is a “smash’n’grab” raid. Cédric Soares was replaced by Ainsley Maitland-Niles with fifteen minutes of the match remaining, and Granit Xhaka was booked for an unfortunate slide tackle that was worse than it actually looked. With five minutes left, Bukayo Saka was replaced by Sead Kolašinac, and Emiliano Martínez was absolutely heroic in our goal, keeping out some intensive Liverpool shots; with a minute left, Joe Willock was unlucky not to score when he blasted a shot over the visitors’ bar from fairly close range. An excellent Emiliano Martínez save kept us in the driving seat, but the sands of time were running out for the visitors, as we ended up the winners tonight by two goals to one.
Absolutely no two ways about it, there’s nothing like a win (especially against the Premiership champions) to put a smile back on our faces, especially after Sunday’sresult. And with thirty-one percent possession too. The confidence these three points will give us going into Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City is incalculable, and it shows us that when the chips are down, this squad of players can deliver. Wembley here we come! Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match: Manchester City at Wembley Stadium, Wembley, London HA9 0WS on Saturday 18th July at 7.45pm (FA Cup). Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.