Liverpool (2) 3 Arsenal (1) 1
Anfield Stadium, Anfield Road, Anfield, Liverpool L4 0TH
Monday, 28th September 2020. Kick-off time: 8.00pm
(4-2-3-1) Bernd Leno; Rob Holding, David Luiz, Kieran Tierney, Hector Bellerin; Mohamed Elneny, Granit Xhaka; Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Willian Borges da Silva, Alexandre Lacazette; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Substitutes: Gabriel Magalhães, Dani Ceballos, Bukayo Saka, Alex Rúnarsson, Nicolas Pépé, Eddie Nketiah, Sead Kolašinac.
Scorers: Alexandre Lacazette (24 mins)
Yellow Cards: Hector Bellerin, Dani Ceballos
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 34%
Referee: Craig Pawson
Assistant Referees: Lee Betts, Richard West
Fourth Official: Anthony Taylor
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Andre Marriner; AVAR Mark Scholes
Attendance: A maximum of 300 attendees due to UK government coronavirus restructions
Our first trip to Anfield this season, and a second one to follow on Thursday evening in the Carabao Cup as well. Our team tonight is a strong one, as nothing else would do when we travel north to visit Liverpool. No surprises on the team sheet tonight, interesting to see that the substitutes’ bench contains some great young players also. Sadly no room for either Mesut Özil nor Joe Willock; perhaps they will be involved in Thursday’s match here in Liverpool 4, who knows? Let’s go!
We started the match fairly solidly enough, with good positioning by our defenders, despite early pressure by Liverpool’s strikers. Our compactness of the team structure managed to frustrate the home team; David Luiz typified the attitude and determination of the defence when he headed away a dangerous Liverpool cross in his own six-yard box as early as the twelfth minute. Bernd Leno made an amazing save from Sadio Mané a few minutes’ later, and it was becoming evident that there is not substitute for paying attention when it comes to a defender playing for Arsenal at Anfield tonight. The home team hit our crossbar when a deflected shot bounced off Hector Bellerin and on to the woodwork; suddenly we broke out of defence, and Ainsley Maitland-Niles ran with the ball deep into the Liverpool half. He crossed it, the ball bounced off Andy Robertson for Alexandre Lacazette to scuff the ball messily over Alisson and into the net. Merely three minutes later, the home side replied with a Sadio Mané goal, which he took from point-blank range, after a Mohamed Salah shot was pushed into the path of the Liverpool striker by Bernd Leno. Eleven minutes before half-time, a Trent Alexander-Arnold cross came off the head of Rob Holding for Andy Robertson to place the ball into our net. Despite the match going against us, every man was playing their part in trying to keep Liverpool from scoring a third before the break. A couple of minutes before the interval, a seventy-yard pass from David Luiz fell into the space behind the Liverpool defence for Ainsley Maitland-Niles to run onto, but sadly he just could not quite get there. And so we went into the break in deficit.
We started the second half more aggressively, taking more risks with movement and long passes, and as a team we started to look more aware of space and possession also. We were making the home side work for their money now, and every time a Liverpool man had the ball, one of our chaps was in close attendance throughout. A quick ball found Alexandre Lacazette on a one-on-one situation with Alisson, and although he tried to chip the Liverpool goalie, he was unsuccessful. Dani Ceballos replaced Granit Xhaka just before the hour, and minutes later Bernd Leno superbly parried a strong shot from Virgil van Dijk, and immediately we counter-attacked, and again Alexandre Lacazette was unlucky not to score from close range. Willian was substituted for Nicolas Pépé with twenty minutes remaining; the home side was, by now, putting us under intense pressure, but the defensive line was holding on. Just. To zip things up a bit, Eddie Nketiah replaced Alexandre Lacazette, and almost immediately got thrown into the action, which by now became real end-to-end stuff at this point in the match. The pace was relentless, the speed quicksilver, the atmosphere tense. With three minutes remaining, Diego Jota placed a right-footed shot past Bernd Leno for Liverpool’s third goal of the night, which, apart from a late chance by Eddie Nketiah that was taken from his foot, was the end of it all.
Okay, we lost, and it hurts, and it’s never easy, but there were some good points in our performance here tonight. We stayed in the game almost right up until the end, still creating chances and were desperately unlucky not to score on a couple of occasions. We are still a work in progress, with a defined learning curve and in many ways have a long way to go; but to come to Anfield to play this Liverpool side, after everything they have achived in the game over the past couple of years, all in all under the circumstances the boys can leave Anfield tonight having learned some valuable lessons,and their heads held high.
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: Liverpool at Anfield on Thurday, 1st October at 7.45pm (Premier League). 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.