A topsy turvy night saw Liverpool grab the lead before battling to share the spoils with Arsenal in a 3-3 draw at the Emirates on Friday.
The Reds took charge of the proceedings in the first half, creating the bulk of the major openings. The deadlock was deservedly broken by a Liverpool player as Mohamed Salah’s cross deflected off Laurent Koscielny towards an unmarked Philippe Coutinho, who headed the lobbed ball past Petr Cech.
The visitors then had several opportunities to double their advantage thereafter, but Salah and Sadio Mane’s were among those who spurned some fantastic chances. A few minutes into the second half though, Liverpool seemed to have edged closer to a win as Salah saw his shot being deflected and out of reach for Cech.
The points are shared. pic.twitter.com/pHTQs50r5U
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) December 22, 2017
But, the hosts scripted a fine fightback in an unbelievable five-minute spell to grab the lead. Alexis Sanchez headed in Hector Bellerin’s cross, catching Joe Gomez napping. Granit Xhaka then struck a long-range screamer, although Simon Mignolet was also at fault for letting the ball in.
Mesut Ozil completed the turnaround by dinking the ball over Mignolet. But, there was some more drama to come, with Liverpool having the final say in the match as Roberto Firmino equalised with a fiercely struck shot that was too powerful for Cech.
In the end, a keenly contested game ended all square with Liverpool maintaining their one-point lead over Arsenal. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Jurgen Klopp’s men.
Simon Mignolet: 5/10
This has happened so ridiculously often that it can’t even be called a running trend. Mignolet produces a few solid performances and then follows them up with some horrible ones. After a quiet first half, the Belgian goalkeeper was called into action in the final 45 minutes, but a horrendous error helped Arsenal maintain their momentum.
Gary Neville on Mignolet: “I don’t need to speak about the Liverpool goalkeeper any more really. I think he’s a half-decent goalkeeper. But I genuinely do believe if Liverpool had two decent centre-backs and a good goalkeeper in the last five years, they’d have won the league.“ pic.twitter.com/RxNONxz660
— Anfield HQ (@AnfieldHQ) December 23, 2017
While Granit Xhaka’s thunderbolt was quite powerful, it was central and should have been saved, or at least parried away, instead of just being helped into the goal. If Liverpool still to contest for the Premier League title, someone like Mignolet absolutely cannot make do. That’s the harsh truth.
Joe Gomez: 6/10
The young Englishman has not put many a foot wrong this season, but Friday was one such night when he did. Gomez had produced a strong showing in the first half, supporting Salah with a few runs down the right flank. But, he was caught sleeping for Arsenal’s first goal as Alexis Sanchez made merry.
He could have done better to help stop Ozil’s goal as well, although the youngster was otherwise composed, especially when one-on-one against his man.
Dejan Lovren: 7/10
Lovren’s purple patch continued even as his side conceded three goals. The Croat was not at fault for any of the goals, and was in fact, really solid defensively, making a number of important interceptions and clearances.
He also kept Alexandre Lacazette in check, restricting him to sufficing with link up plays rather than making his usual instinctive runs into the box.
Ragnar Klavan: 6/10
Like Lovren, Klavan wasn’t directly at fault for any of the goals that Arsenal scored, keeping things tight at the heart of defence in a solid, yet unspectacular performance. What he was at fault for was not being able to stay organised enough to restrict the hosts like he did in the first half.
Andrew Robertson: 6.5/10
“That’s a disappointment and we have to look at that.”
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) December 23, 2017
Another superb performance by Robertson, who continues to grow in the absence of Alberto Moreno. The Scot put a shift in on Friday night, shutting off Alex Iwobi with ease while making some menacing runs down the left flank, with his delivery quite threatening too.
One thing he should be pulled back for is his inability to close down Hector Bellerin, who had acres of space to just put in the pinpoint cross for Sanchez’s goal.
Emre Can: 6/10
Can blew hot and cold on the night, having taken up Jordan Henderson’s role of the anchor man after the captain’s substitution. Mesut Ozil had some fun at his expense a lot of times, and the German was also guilty of not shutting off the space for Xhaka to slot in the thunderbolt of a goal.
Jordan Henderson: N/A
The Liverpool captain’s night ended early after he picked up an injury while chasing down Mesut Ozil.
Philippe Coutinho: 8/10
18 goals and 9 assists for Coutinho in 27 games. 🇧🇷 pic.twitter.com/qsXMLLNX48
— Will (@dug_8) December 23, 2017
The Liverpool talisman was hugely influential once again for his side. He started off by scoring the opener, heading the ball strongly past Petr Cech. Other than the goal, the Brazilian kept on finding pockets of space to link up superbly with the men up front.
He could have had a few assists as well, if not for the profligacy of some of his teammates. A creative powerhouse for the Reds, who will be nervously waiting for more clarity on his future.
Mohamed Salah: 7/10
A slightly sub par game for the in-form Egyptian, who missed one fantastic regulation chance to double his side’s lead in the first half. He also had one shot saved well by Cech, whose outstretched hand did not stand a chance when Salah saw his shot deflected into the goal.
Top scorers in the Premier League so far this season:
Mohamed Salah – 15
Harry Kane – 15
Sergio Aguero – 12
Raheem Sterling – 12
Romelu Lukaku – 10
Wayne Rooney – 10
Who’s your favourite for the Golden Boot come the end of the season? 🤔🤔 pic.twitter.com/7hoyVkMblH
— CaughtOffside (@caughtoffside) December 24, 2017
He looked tired as the game wore on, and the player looks in need of a rest, which might just be afforded to him on Boxing Day.
Sadio Mane: 6/10
The poor run of form continued for Mane on Friday as he desperately tried, and failed, to grab a goal that could set in motion a return to his best. Unarguably, his decision making needs a lot of work as he was guilty of being too selfish once again, when he could have easily squared the ball for his side to score.
The Senegalese winger looks a little short of confidence right now, and cut a figure of frustration when he was subbed off for Georginio Wijnaldum in the 80th minute.
Roberto Firmino: 8/10
Such a vital cog in Liverpool’s attack. Firmino was immense once again as he continued to enhance his reputation of being one of the best attackers in the Premier League. His tricky movement and deep drops made the Brazilian such a nuisance, and his work rate makes one think if he ever tires out.
Bobby Firmino on course for a superb season🔴🇧🇷
2016/2017- 12 goals⚽
2017/2018: 14 goals⚽
It’s still only December…
— Empire of the Kop (@empireofthekop) December 23, 2017
Most importantly, Firmino scored the goal that earned his side a point after they had nearly lost the game. He now has now been involved in more Premier League goals than any other Liverpool player since he joined at the start of the 2015/16 season, scoring 28 goals and proving 18 assists.
James Milner: 7/10
Milner assumed the armband from Henderson after coming on early into the game, and was key in his side’s defensive and attacking outputs. His pressing helped earn the first goal, and the veteran English midfielder was quite diligent in his defensive duties as well, restricting the hosts to a great extent for large parts of the game.