Arsenal 3 Liverpool 2: Gunners go TOP of Premier League as Saka scores twice and Martinelli sends Trent to the bench | The Sun
BUKAYO SAKA’S nerveless spot-kick winner sent Arsenal surging back to the Premier League summit – and torpedoed the title hopes of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.
The England winger, fall guy of the Euros Final penalty shoot-out, netted his second of a thrilling, high-tempo match as the Gunners opened up a 14-point lead over their spluttering mid-table visitors.
Klopp hauled off Mo Salah with the score at 2-2, and saw Trent Alexander-Arnold suffer a schooling from Gabriel Martinelli before the right-back’s own half-time substitution as Liverpool were left with just two wins from their first eight league matches.
This was a triumph for Arteta, whose side led through Martinelli in the first minute, regained their advantage through Saka in the final minute of the first half.
And although Liverpool had the better of the opening period and levelled through Darwin Nunez, Arsenal seized control after the break, even though Roberto Firmino conjured a second leveller for the visitors.
While a Manchester City fuelled by Erling Haaland’s ceaseless supply of goals remain white-hot favourites for the title, Arteta’s team have confirmed themselves as the most likely challengers with back-to-back home wins against Spurs and Liverpool.
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The Emirates was throbbing throughout a pulsating Premier League classic – and while the winning penalty was controversial, the way Arsenal won it after weathering Liverpool’s first-half dominance, was hugely encouraging for their manager.
Arsenal had won just once in 17 previous attempts against the Reds since Klopp took charge so this was a hugely significant win.
Klopp stuck with the 4-2-3-1 formation employed in the comfortable midweek win over Rangers and Arteta sprang a surprise by selecting Takehiro Tomiyasu out of position at left-back, ahead of Kieran Tierney, and the Japanese tethered Salah effectively.
But as if propelled by their early-season momentum, Arsenal seized the lead within 58 seconds with a precise, rapid move.
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Saka surged down the right and squared for Odegaard, whose cute angled pass was met with a composed first-team finish from Martinelli.
Alexander-Arnold was again found wanting positionally, though so too was his fellow full-back Kostas Tsimikas.
It was the tenth time in 12 Premier League games Liverpool have conceded first, though they had only previously lost one of those.
But Klopp’s men felt they should have had a penalty when Gabriel raised his arm against Jota – ref Michael Oliver and VAR Darren England presumably ruling that the Gunners defender was too close to take evasive action.
Alexander-Arnold appeared to damage his right ankle in a tangle with Martinelli.
Whether or not this would have caused any panic for England boss Gareth Southgate – who loves a right-back and had just lost Kyle Walker to injury – is open to conjecture, but the Liverpool man continued until the break.
Liverpool were beginning to look like their old selves and Nunez had a snap-shot pushed away by Aaron Ramsdale before the Arsenal keeper was forced to save from his own defender when Saliba intercepted a Nunez centre.
Salah’s dribble took out three defenders before he dragged a shot wide.
So Liverpool’s equaliser was certainly well signposted before it arrived on 34 minutes.
Alexander-Arnold’s long ball found Nunez, who fed Diaz then surged into the six-yard box to poke home the Colombian’s low centre.
It was the Uruguayan’s first goal since the opening day of the season but just when it looked as though the momentum was fully with Liverpool, the wheels came off.
First Diaz was forced off through injury and replaced by Roberto Firmino and then, in the fifth minute of first-half injury-time, Arsenal swept forward and regained the lead.
Jesus won the ball deep in his own half and Martinelli surged forward, teased poor Alexander-Arnold and delivered a low centre which Gabriel Margalhaes dummied and Saka tucked away at the back stick.
While the Liverpool right-back had suffered a nightmare against Martinelli, he probably should have been withdrawn with his ankle injury – a decision which Klopp eventually made at half-time, sending on Joe Gomez.
It was a sickening time to concede for the visitors and Arteta’s men began the second half with a voracious appetite for a third.
They attacked in waves, with Odegaard shooting straight at Allison but the first time Liverpool went forward in the second half, they levelled again.
Jordan Henderson picked out Jota, whose pass wrong-footed William Saliba and fed Firmino, who shot inside the far post, beating the flailing dives of Gabriel and Ramsdale.
There were worrying scenes when Jesus was floored by a stray elbow from Tsimikas but the Arsenal striker eventually continued and VAR cleared the Liverpool left-back.
With Arsenal on top, Klopp changed back to a 4-3-3 as Fabinho replaced Salah, Ibrahima Konate also on for Joel Matip.
After an almighty goalmouth scramble, Oliver pointed to the spot when Thiago Alcantara caught Jesus as he attempted to clear.
It was soft but the more junior VAR England was never going to overrule Oliver and, after a fracas between Granit Xhaka and Henerson, Saka thudded his spot-kick past Alisson.
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