Liverpool ended Arsenal’s 100 per cent start to the season while extending their own with a 3-1 victory at Anfield to make it 61 home league matches unbeaten.
Having lost their last two matches to Mikel Arteta’s side – one on penalties in the Community Shield – there was barely a time over the 90 minutes when the defending champions looked like allowing it to happen a third time.
Sadio Mane, Andy Robertson and Diogo Jota, on his home debut, all scored after Alexandre Lacazette had been gifted the opener after a Robertson error.
If the France international’s finish from Arsenal’s first shot on target in the 25th minute was not that convincing his performance in two second-half one-on-ones – one latterly flagged offside – with Alisson Becker was less so and he rightly covered his face with his shirt when taking his seat on the bench after being substituted 15 minutes from time.
Had he been sharper Liverpool may have had more of a problem but they dominated for long periods – having 21 shots to their opponents four – and with better finishing of their own would have been comfortable long before Jota made the game safe in the 88th minute.
The last eight Anfield meetings in all competitions had produced 44 goals so there was an expectation there would be plenty of entertainment for the viewing public at home.
Arsenal, with David Luiz restored to a back three and two holding midfielders in Mohamed Elneny and Granit Xhaka, seemed in no mood to take the game to their hosts as Premier League newcomers Leeds had so thrillingly done on the opening weekend of the season.
Instead they sat back, rarely engaging as Liverpool played out from the defence, in the hope of hitting on the break.
It was a misguided ploy, especially to afford so much time and space to Trent Alexander-Arnold, who when on his game is seemingly guaranteed to provide a goal such is the quality of his crossing.
One early cross had Luiz nodding Virgil Van Dijk’s goalbound header behind to help out beaten goalkeeper Bernd Leno, who did well to parry Mane’s first-time shot from another Alexander-Arnold delivery.
Bizarrely Arsenal did not – or could not – stop the England international, who also had a low drive deflected onto the crossbar by Hector Bellerin, and neither did they try to exploit the space he left in behind.
On the one occasion they did it brought their somewhat fortuitous goal as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s cross was over-hit to Robertson but the full-back’s mis-control played the ball back towards his goal and into the path of Lacazette.
The France international was equally unconvincing with his mis-kicked shot – the Gunners’ first of the game – but he succeeded in bouncing it into the floor and agonisingly over the outstretched arm of Alisson.
However, if Arteta was hoping to hold on to that lead his plan was dashed after 147 seconds as Leno parried Mohamed Salah’s shot and Mane pounced for the equaliser.
Compare & contrast @LFC's front 3 with that of @Arsenal's out of possession. LFC's trio are either already moving or poised to spring when ball goes into specific area. They may be working to different game plan but 2 (AL/PEA) of Arsenal's 3 can barely break out of a walk— Carl Markham (@carlmarkham) September 28, 2020
Seven minutes later Liverpool were ahead as yet another Alexander-Arnold cross found its target in the penalty area, this time his opposite full-back Robertson making amends for his earlier error by controlling on his chest and poking home.
Arsenal offered a little more threat after the break, while doing slightly better in nullifying Alexander-Arnold, but they were as poor in front of goal as they had been out of possession.
Either side of Leno saving Van Dijk’s low drive Lacazette was twice clean through, although first time he was eventually offside, but his lack of conviction meant on both occasions he failed to beat Alisson.
Springing Liverpool’s high line looked Arsenal’s best chance of success – especially when substitutes Eddie Nketiah and Nicolas Pepe arrived – and that provided one or two nervy moments for the hosts when they did.
But Liverpool’s new signing Jota, also a late substitute, finally put the match to bed two minutes from time when he seized a weak Luiz header, controlling and firing low into the Kop net having earlier wasted a better chance with only Leno to beat.
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