Arsenal found themselves edged out 5-4 on penalties after a ten goal thriller had tested the nerves of both groups of fans. Liverpool took an early lead via an unfortunate Shkodran Mustafi, who turned the ball past his own goalkeeper in the sixth minute. The Gunners fired back swiftly however, as a goal from Lucas Torreira and a double from wonderkid Gabriel Martinelli saw them seemingly take control of an end-to-end game. Martinelli missed a glorious chance to complete his hat-trick, heading straight at Caoimhin Kelleher, before being penalised for a trip on Harvey Elliot in his own 18-yard-box. James Milner, in true Milner fashion, found the bottom corner with the spot-kick and saw his side reach the break just one goal down.
Within ten minutes of the second half, Arsenal had restored their two goal lead; Mesut Ozil provided a sublime back-heel assist to allow Maitland-Niles a tap-in, and the game looked dead and buried. Liverpool clearly had different ideas. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain began the fightback, finding the top corner with a thunderbolt from 25 yards out, before Divock Origi’s snapshot flew past Emiliano Martinez to bring Liverpool level in what was already one of the most entertaining games of the season.
The drama remained far from over, however. Joe Willock, on a night where he was largely anonymous, picked the ball up on the halfway line, before running 20 yards and, still 30 yards out, burying his shot into the top corner. Hope was restored then, that Arsenal could come away with a first Anfield victory since 2012.
For twenty-four precious minutes, this dream held. Divock Origi, the man who had broken the hearts of Barcelona and Tottenham in last season’s Champions League, added Arsenal to his list. The Belgian found space in the penalty area to acrobatically hook in a Neco Williams cross in the last seconds of the game. Once again, Liverpool’s cult hero had saved them from despair.
To penalties we went then, and despite my best efforts, deep down I knew the game had slipped away from us. These fears were realised when Kelleher saved Dani Ceballos’ poor penalty, the only miss of the shoot-out. As I left the game however, my thoughts were largely positive despite the defeat. Although it means another trophy is now out of reach for the Gunners, the attacking youth prospects on show gave me confidence going forward, and it seems as if the club are in good hands.
Undoubtedly the key moment in the game was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s goal from nothing. Having just gone 4-2 down, it was imperative that Liverpool pulled one back quickly to try and turn the tide of the game. The Ox did just that, robbing Maitland-Niles before hitting the ball sweetly into the top corner of the net, all from 25 yards out. Oxlade-Chamberlain remains a classy figure, and demonstrated this by refusing to celebrate against his former club, despite the quality of the goal. Although his career has been very stop-start as a result of injuries, if he can stay fit then there is no reason that the 26-year-old can’t continue to perform in this vein for both Liverpool and England.
Rising Star- Gabriel Martinelli.
What a gem Edu has uncovered with this young Brazilian. Snatched from obscurity in the second tier of Brazilian football, the 18-year-old has taken to North London like a duck to water, scoring seven goals already so far this season. He keeps lofty company too, being the first player since Ian Wright to net in their first four starts for the Gunners. Even Jurgen Klopp conceded that the youngster was a ‘talent of the century’. His performances have been so consistent that he is surely challenging for a forward berth against Wolves this weekend. It seems like Arsenal have already found Aubameyang’s successor.
Man-of-the-Match: Mesut Ozil
Never has a man made football look so easy. Mesut Ozil is the embodiment of the beautiful game, making class seem effortless. For 65 minutes, before his inexplicable substitution, the German was the crux of Arsenal’s forward play, involved in two goals, including a lovely first time pass to Saka and a nonchalant back-heel to set up Maitland-Niles. As soon as he was substituted, the game became much more frenetic, which ultimately saw Arsenal lose the lead which they had worked so hard to create. If Mesut was out to prove a point, given his poor treatment by Emery, he certainly succeeded, and it seems hard for him to be left out of the next Premier League fixture.