Gunners make point with five-minute goal blitz against Liverpool
Sanchez, Xhaka and Ozil find net in dramatic second-half comeback as Arsenal boss Wenger praises Wilshere for performing 'better now than in the last two or three years'
23 December, 2017 — By Tom Foot
ARSENAL 3, LIVERPOOL 3
ALEX Iwobi had lost all composure. Alexis Sanchez was hogging the ball like a schoolboy. Hector Bellerin was telegraphing passes left, right and centre. Granit Xhaka simply did not dignify a response.
Arsenal were so bad in the first half that they left the field to boos louder than when a goal goes in at the Emirates.
But the Gunners fought back from 2-0 down with a three-goal five-minute rampage that restored some sense of pride in north London.
“It could have been game over at half-time,” Arsene Wenger said after the match. “We had a nightmare first half and we could have been punished more.”
Liverpool were totally dominant when Phillipe Coutinho nodded a deflected Mo Salah cross over a stranded Petr Cech on 26 minutes.
Salah made it 2-0 with a deflected shot shortly before Sanchez headed in from close range on 53 minutes. Three minutes later, Xhaka appeared to hear the crowd urging him to shoot from 30 yards – and swung a leg. The ferocious strike was down the middle but it swerved suddenly, bamboozling Simon Mignolet who flapped away as it crashed in.
The celebrations had barely finished when Mesut Ozil dinked the keeper after a sweet give-and-go with Alexandre Lacazette.
The game turned on its head, Arsenal were dominating and Jack Wilshere was orchestrating the play like days of old. After the match Wenger said he was performing “better now than in the last two or three years”.
The manager was asked in the press conference if at this point he should have “parked the bus”.
He said: “I don’t know what you mean ‘park the bus’ – I don’t know who invented this phrase, but it has nothing to do with football.”
Firmino found time and space in the box to make it 3-3 on 72 minutes – Cech parrying his powerful shot into the empty net.
The game went dead and ended without incident, bar Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain getting subbed on for the last six minutes.
The boos for the former Arsenal midfielder – who left to join the Merseysiders in the summer – were loud. But not as loud as for the Gunners in the first half.
Reflecting on the reaction to Oxlade-Chamberlain, Wenger said: “Twenty years in England? I’m not surprised.”
ARSENAL: Cech, Bellerin, Koscielny, Monreal (Mustafi, 45), Maitland Niles, Xhaka, Wilshere, Iwobi (Welbeck, 81), Ozil, Sanchez (Walcott, 89), Lacazette.
Subs not used: Ospina, Elneny, Walcott, Kolasinac, Coquelin.
LIVERPOOL: Mignolet, Lovren, Firmino, Coutinho (Oxlade-Chamberlain, 84), Salah, Gomez, Hendersom (Milner, 14), Mane (Wijnaldum, 83), Klavan, Can, Robertson.
Subs not used: Karius, Lallana, Solanke, Alexander-Arnold.