Arsenal FC and Liverpool FC had to settle for a point each after a richly entertaining game of two halves beneath the Emirates Stadium drizzle implausibly finished 0-0 on Monday.
With Arsenal centre-backs Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny absent — the former ill, the latter laid low by a back problem — Liverpool FC dominated the first half, hitting the woodwork twice and seeing Petr Cech produce an astonishing save to deny Christian Benteke, although Aaron Ramsey also had a goal contentiously ruled out for Arsenal FC.
The hosts took control in the second half, Alexis Sanchez striking the post, but Liverpool held firm for a result that left them two points below leaders Manchester City — the only team in the Premier League to have won their first three games — and three points above Arsenal FC.
“I thought we were outstanding. We showed everything. You heard Petr Cech getting a round of applause for the saves he made,” Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers told Sky Sports.
“Overall we kept a good clean sheet, but we’re disappointed we didn’t win.”
A goalless draw seemed an improbable outcome for much of the match, such was the sheer number of chances, but having seen his side beaten 2-0 by West Ham United in their first home game, it was Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger who would have been the most relieved to avoid defeat.
“Liverpool had some chances in the first half and nothing in the second,” Wenger said.
“We had chances in both halves and were unlucky because we scored a regular goal that was ruled out and that was very difficult to understand.
“We know we can score goals, but we need to do better in the final third.”
Mertesacker and Koscielny both missed a game for the first time in 3 years
The evening’s first bombshell landed when Arsenal FC’s starting line-up was announced, revealing that Mertesacker and Koscielny would both miss a league game for the first time since a 2-1 loss at home to Wigan Athletic in April 2012.
Their deputies, Calum Chambers and Gabriel, had never previously played together at centre-back and Liverpool FC lost little time attacking them.
Inside the first three minutes, Benteke shot wide from Emre Can’s pass and then teed up Philippe Coutinho for a shot that thudded against the crossbar.
But Liverpool FC exhibited defensive frailties of their own and after Sanchez had headed over, Ramsey scored from a sensational Santi Cazorla pass, only to be denied by an offside flag.
The Premier League has admitted that Benteke’s goal in last Monday’s 1-0 win over Bournemouth should have been ruled out for offside against Coutinho and here again, Liverpool FC looked to have received a favour from the officials.
They also received a series of favours from Chambers, who gave the ball away with troubling regularity, obliging Francis Coquelin to produce a desperate last-ditch tackle on Coutinho on one occasion.
Petr Cech pulled off a couple of astonishing saves
It was then Cech’s turn to dig his team out, the Czech goalkeeper pulling off an extraordinary stop to prevent Benteke from poking in Roberto Firmino’s low cross at point-blank range and then brilliantly tipping a shot from Coutinho onto the post after the Brazilian had embarrassed Hector Bellerin.
Arsenal FC belatedly settled in the second half, occupying the full width of the pitch when in possession and making deeper inroads in the Liverpool FC third.
Olivier Giroud volleyed wide, before a slick combination involving Mesut Ozil, Cazorla and Giroud culminated in Sanchez bursting onto a lay-off from the Frenchman and slamming a shot against the post.
In search of an extra out ball, Rodgers sent the pacy Jordon Ibe on for Firmino, but Arsenal FC continued to press, with visiting goalkeeper Simon Mignolet forced to claw away a close-range shot from Giroud and field a curler from Ramsey.
Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain joined the fray for Arsenal in the closing stages and the latter almost crafted a breakthrough, first via a low cross that Liverpool FC defender Martin Skrtel prodded just wide of his own goal and then with a skidding drive that Mignolet had to parry.