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Arsenal 3-3 Liverpool: Resurgent Gunners Play Out Six Goal Thriller At The Emirates

Arsenal and Liverpool kicked off the Premier League’s festive season with a cracker of a match, playing out a 3-3 draw at the Emirates.

The Gunners seemed to be falling apart when Philippe Coutinho and Mohamed Salah gave the visitors a 2-0 lead only for a stunning five minute period to see Arsenal snatch a 3-2 lead – but they were denied victory as Roberto Firmino struck 20 minutes from time.

With Jurgen Klopp having named all of his ‘Fab Four’ of Coutinho, Sadio Mane, Salah and Firmino, Arsene Wenger’s decision to name a back four without Sead Kolasinac and Shkodran Mustafi seemed an unnecessary gamble.

In their place, repurposed midfielder Ainsley Maitland-Niles was deployed at left back – tasked with holding back the league’s top scorer in Salah – and Nacho Monreal continued at centre back. Wenger’s wager backfired.

It did not immediately seem that would be the case: Alexandre Lacazette spearheaded a high press and Liverpool looked spooked, particularly when captain Jordan Henderson pumped the ball off the pitch and made his way to the bench to be replaced by James Milner.

But Liverpool soon discovered Arsenal’s soft underbelly, woefully protected by Granit Xhaka and the rest of a disorganised midfield Jack Wilshere could not hold together. Maitland-Niles was remorselessly targeted, bullied in the air by Firmino, who twice headed crosses from the left just wide.

The breakthrough came soon after as Arsenal once more threw too many men forward. Salah led the counter, his cross deflecting off Koscielny and onto the head of Coutinho, who flicked past Petr Cech as Wilshere and Granit Xhaka watched on.

Liverpool should have wrapped the game up before the interval: Mane acrobatically volleyed over with only Hector Bellerin guarding the goal-line; Salah shanked a strike at goal backwards.

It would cost the Reds dearly, but you wouldn’t have known when the Egyptian drove through the absentee Arsenal midfield before curling past Cech to make it 2-0.

Then within 388 second-half seconds, Arsenal were in the lead: Alexis Sanchez snuck in front of Joe Gomez to head home the goal that gave them hope;Xhaka’s hit-and-hope strike saw Simon Mignolet meekly tip the ball onwards to the goal, then Mesut Ozil combined with Alexandre Lacazette to unleash pandemonium at the Emirates.

Amid Arsenal’s defensive travails Cech had been superb, denying Mane moments after Liverpool had earned the lead. But he was cruelly punished when his defence again gave an opponent the space to turn and shoot on the edge of the area. Cech got a glove on the strike but not enough to deny Firmino as the ball looped into the net.

It seemed implausible that the final 20 minutes would not bring another goal, but a game full of surprises had one more as both defences somehow held firm to claim a point apiece.

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