Report: Liverpool 1-1 Arsenal
Arsenal stole a point at Anfield in their opening game of the season on Sunday.
Both teams finished with ten men as Cole and Koscielny were sent off, but it was Liverpool who were outnumbered for most of the game and nearly clinched a superb victory.
The hosts were reduced on the stroke of half-time but Ngog somehow gave them the lead soon after the restart.
Arsenal showed little urgency to react with Arshavin notably poor, but Chamakh heroically forced an own goal from Reina as the Gunners leveled matters in injury time.
This was not the perfect result to follow up pace setters Chelsea in the title race, but on today’s circumstances – a lackluster show in a tough trip – Wenger will welcome this 1-1 draw as an encouraging one.
Arsene Wenger’s team sheet today was a headline maker. His much anticipated choice of No. 1 in goal was at last revealed as Manuel Almunia while Anfield was chosen as the ground for 18-year-old Jack Wilshere’s first ever league start.
Arsenal’s start was as bright as their new away strip, with Vermaelen testing Reina and nearly scoring through a terrifically stricken free kick before Clichy’s shot fizzed just over the crossbar.
The visitors were ascendant in terms of possession and attempts at goal but the game was still in the balance according to the score board. And Glen Johnson nearly broke the deadlock with a dangerous long-range effort as half-time approached.
Moments later, Joe Cole rushed a tackle into fellow debutant Laurent Koscielny. As Arsenal’s defender laid down in agony, the Englishman was sent off.
A turning point it seemed, going into the break.
The incident was viewed as a turning point because Arsenal were likely to capitalize on their numerical advantage and command this game, but if any team looked like they had more representation on the field a minute into the second-half, it was the men in red.
Arshavin won possession in Arsenal’s territory and decided to pass to Wilshere rather than punt the ball away. Unfortunately, the 18-year-old amateur was unprepared to receive and Mascherano crept in a pass for David Ngog who left marker Vermaelen and goalkeeper Almunia hapless with a ferocious shot from a tight angle.
Arsenal were rocked.
The energy from Roy Hodgson’s reduced men had left the Gunners looking puzzled in their pursuit for an equalizer which, in truth, hardly looked likely. It was the hosts who seemed poised for another goal as Ngog somehow failed to convert a clear header later on.
Tomas Rosicky and Theo Walcott were sent on to force matters, but Liverpool remained water-tight at the back. So in response to the home side’s introduction of star striker Fernando Torres with 15 minutes left, Wenger brought on his own talismanic front-man in Robin van Persie.
From then on, Arsenal grew in urgency. Rosicky played a fine move with Chamakh before his shot, which was heading for the top corner of the net, was somehow met by Reina’s fingertips. Moments later, Van Persie knocked a ball bound for goal-kick back into play with Liverpool’s defense in disarray, but Theo Walcott could not find his foot to shoot.
Vermaelen then headed just wide before Arsenal’s sudden hard-work was rewarded in the 90th minute. Tomas Rosicky sent in a cross from the left wing and Chamakh, as brave as ever, guided the ball off Reina’s palms and onto the post. But before the Morrocan rued his luck, the ball ricocheted back off Reina and into the net.
Arsenal had scored a late goal yet again, but infuriated Liverpool responded with no time to waste. The reds forced a frantic spell in Arsenal’s area late on and Steven Gerard’s goal-bound free-kick was impressively parried away by Almunia.
Koscielny was twice cautioned during injury time and Arsenal’s new defender received his marching orders just seconds before the final whistle.
Like the former Lorient man showed today, the Gunners had guts.