Home » EPL, Featured, Latest » Match Report: Arsenal 2 Liverpool 0

The fireworks were going off in the streets of Islington as this match drew to a close. If it is a bit of a stretch to describe this as the moment Arsenal’s title challenge ignited, then this was the night when, for the first time, they truly believed.

This was a breathtaking performance, full of verve and vigour and composure, and most of all confidence, that ethereal vapour that has been so lacking in N5 of late.

If being top in autumn can be explained away, then going five points clear as winter takes its grip, having just dismantled your closest challengers, is a statement of an entirely different order. Arsenal are serious challengers for the Premier League title. And they know it.

There was so much to admire here, from the poise and discipline in defence to the soaring ambition in midfield, where Santi Cazorla and Mesut Özil were polished cogs greased by the outstanding Aaron Ramsey.

They won without an entire legion of injured players, including Theo Walcott, Lukas Podolski, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and the latest casualty Jack Wilshere, who succumbed to an ankle injury.

By the end, following a second half played out in a near-carnival atmosphere, even Luis Suarez was merely a bit-part player, a fringe performer in a summer sideshow that had long since faded into sepia-tinged memory.

Suarez’s name was met with boos when it was read out before the match, and as he wandered over to take a corner in front of the Arsenal fans during the early stages of the game, he was greeted with a lyrical “you should have signed for a big club”.

Perhaps this was just the mind playing tricks, but Arsenal appeared to be under instruction to give their would-be team-mate a special Emirates welcome.

Laurent Koscielny piled in with a thunderous tackle early on, and Mikel Arteta was lucky not to give away a penalty when he went scything in on the half-hour. In for a penny, in for £40,000,001.

The opening skirmishes merely confirmed the pre-match consensus that this was never going to end goalless. On 10 minutes, Jordan Henderson won the ball from Santi Cazorla and was allowed to run unchallenged all the way from the halfway line to within sight of goal.

As Henderson shuffled nervously into the penalty area, as Arteta stood off him and Bacary Sagna snapped ineffectually at his heels, time appeared to be standing still.

So much time. Time enough for Henderson to panic. His left-footed shot barely crossed the goal line.

Liverpool started well, but before long their weakness against well-delivered crosses, a failing that cost them against Southampton and Newcastle, had resurfaced again here.

Their long-established strategy of dominating the centre occasionally leaves them vulnerable to a flank attack, and here Aaron Ramsey’s quick ball to release Sagna down the right caught Liverpool out of position.

Sagna crossed. Olivier Giroud left the bouncing ball for Cazorla, whose header pinged against the outside of the post. With Martin Skrtel caught on his heels, Cazorla pounced quickest on the rebound.

First-time, and off-balance, he hammered the ball into the roof of the net. The clock showed 19 minutes. Such was the hurtling pace of the opening that it had felt like 90.

Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, still prostrate after his dive, was left flapping helplessly at the ball, like a man sitting on his sofa trying to swat a fly.

Arsenal could have been further ahead by the break. Another mesmerising kaleidoscope of passing triangles in the Liverpool area created a shooting opportunity for Ramsey, whose low left-footed shot was saved by Mignolet. Cazorla dragged a shot wide from 22 yards on the stroke of half-time.

The second half brought instant changes. The wretched Aly Cissohko was withdrawn at half-time, Philippe Coutinho replacing him on the left in a largely orthodox 4-4-2 formation.

Yes, Brendan Rodgers going 4-4-2: the equivalent of Radiohead putting away their fancy computers and releasing an album of sing-along pub bangers. If it was an unfamiliar sight, there was also a certain logic in opening up the game. Unfortunately, it opened in Arsenal’s favour.

With spaces now opening up all over the pitch, Arsenal could now play at will and break at pace. The warning signs were there for Liverpool even before Ramsey doubled Arsenal’s lead on the hour. A few minutes earlier, Kolo Toure’s pass to Skrtel had been intercepted by Giroud, who tried to chip Mignolet and put it just wide.

Toure was partly culpable for the goal, too, giving Ramsey far too much space as he received Özil’s pass just outside the Liverpool area.

Ramsey let the ball drop. For him, too, time appeared to stop, just as it had for Henderson earlier. As it bounced, he swung a right foot through it, giving the ball just enough dip and swerve to loop the ball out of the reach of Mignolet’s dramatic dive.

Liverpool’s flourishes were all too brief, the result never seriously in doubt despite the odd threatening burst. Daniel Sturridge – and it is indicative in itself that this is the first time his name has demanded mention – headed Henderson’s cross over from 12 yards.

Suarez’s first time shot from a tight angle kissed the outside of the post as it went. But these were mere sparkles, in a game where it was Arsenal who provided all the fireworks.

Source: Telegraph

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