By Walter Broeckx
I must say that was one of the worst first 45 minutes of Arsenal this season. I don’t think we got more than 3 passes between Arsenal player in the whole half. Liverpool was pressing as they usually do from the start. And Arsenal clearly was determined to not allow a repeat of last season. Maybe the team was too much focused on their defending duties and as a result our attacking never really got going. Not Liverpool got so many open chances themselves. It was a high tempo match with lots of misplaced passes from both sides.
Liverpool came closest to scoring when Markovic could break away on the left but our man of the match Szczesny made a great block. I think I can give my man of the match already away as he was the only player really in top form for this match.
The match seemingly going for a nil nil at half time and suddenly when the ref blew the half time whistle the score was 1-1. A completely messing up between Giroud – Welbeck and losing the ball halfway our own half and the ball ended up in the feet of Coutinho who dribbled himself in to a position to shoot and his low shot went in off the post. I couldn’t help but whisper to myself : that is probably deserved.
It was the wake up call we needed. A foul on Alexis and he took the free kick and whipped it in front of the Liverpool goal. Mertesacker headed it, Chambers headed it back and Debuchy nodded it in. Pfew, a lucky break and a goal with our first and only chance of the half.
A better Arsenal in the second half. Finally we got some passing from Arsenal and the game was much more open. But Liverpool was always dangerous as it somehow opened our defence at times. But we also had a good shot from Cazorla that just went over.
Then a long stoppage for Skretl who when falling over had made contact with the studs of Giroud on his head. A nasty looking wound but he could carry on but we lost a lot of time that we would have to add on later.
Sterling then cheating his way almost to a Liverpool goal when the took the ball with him with his had when Szczesny tried to come out of the penalty area. The ref didn’t spot it and Gerrard headed over. But Arsenal now also looking dangerous a bit more and a shot from Giroud went wide.
And a few minutes later Arsenal got a goal. Gibbs played it in to Giroud in the middle who gave the ball to Cazorla who cut it back and Giroud was on hand to put Arsenal in front.
Liverpool doubled their efforts and it was defending with all and everyone from Arsenal. We didn’t do enough I think with the ball to punish Liverpool. A few players not at their best clearly but they all worked very hard and were good in their defensive duties.
Cazorla blocking a Coutinho effort just after we scored. And all what went past our defenders was stopped by Szczesny. A few shots from Sterling, a short from Gerrard, a header from Borini. Szczesny was there.
Coquelin came on for Giroud with some 10 minutes to go. And a bit later Oxlade-Chamberlain was replaced by Campbell.
And when Borini first lost his temper at the touchline when he wanted a throw for Liverpool but didn’t get it and he was rightfully booked for smashing the ball on to the ground. And seconds later he planted his studs on the chest of Cazorla. Cazorla had his t-shirt ripped to pieces and a nasty cut on his chest was the result. And Borini was sent off with a second yellow. I think a straight red was more appropriate. Monreal came on for Alexis.
I hoped that this would take off the wind out of Liverpool but they fought with renewed spirits. Liverpool got a few corners but our defence stood well most of the time. But then after some 96 minutes Skretl headed the ball in from a corner. A man at the first post would have saved it easy but there was nobody there. A goal we shouldn’t have conceded.
What followed was some 4 minutes of nerve wrecking football between two teams who played like chickens without head. And right at the end of the 9 minutes extra time we almost won it when a Cazorla shot was pushed out, Monreal tried to find Welbeckin the middle but a defender could divert it in to a corner that resulted in nothing.
A bad day on the field from our team and our attacking fluency was missing for most of the game. But we fought hard, we defended well most of the time. When you are not in great form to play your game you have to fight harder and that is what we did.
Of course when you are 1-2 in front in extra time you hope for all 3 points but it wasn’t to be. So disappointed because of the final score of course, but it wasn’t a great performance certainly attacking wise. So I will take the 1 point as it is. I know we can do better.
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