Arsenal go toe to toe with Liverpool and top Christmas table




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LIVERPOOL, England,- Arsenal laid down their title credentials with an impressive performance in an intense 1-1 draw at Liverpool on Saturday and will top the Premier League table at Christmas.

Mikel Arteta’s team, last season’s runners-up who have won five of their last seven matches but not tasted victory in a league game at Anfield since 2012, have 40 points from 18 games. Liverpool are second on 39 points, ahead of Aston Villa on goal difference.

“An unbelievable game of football, one of the most intense I’ve witnessed in 20 years in this league,” Arteta told the BBC. “For many moments we were on top, in the last 20 minutes we wanted it more, but a draw is a fair result.”

In 10 of the last 14 seasons, the leaders on Christmas Day have gone on to win the title. Champions Manchester City are fifth, but have played one fewer game.

“Oh my god, how strong are they? The good news is we are good as well,” Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp said of Arsenal.

“In a game like this, going down early to a set piece is tough, especially with the speed of Arsenal. But the game we played, how we started second half we should have scored.

“We pass instead of shoot, four or five times we do that, it’s a lesson. But generally the game is great.”

Klopp had urged fans to crank up the volume at Anfield after a couple of uncharacteristically quiet games at the Merseyside stadium.

Although the fans obliged, Arsenal took an early lead when Gabriel outwitted Cody Gakpo to head in a floated pass from captain Martin Odegaard in the fourth minute.

“It was really loud from the beginning, they did their bit to generate that,” Arteta said. “I love that our players could handle this, it’s not easy.”

Liverpool forward Mohammed Salah scored a brilliant equaliser in the 29th minute when Trent Alexander-Arnold found him with a pinpoint long pass. Salah stepped easily around Oleksandr Zinchenko before unleashing a fierce left-foot shot into the net.

Salah’s goal was his 151st in the Premier League to put him 10th on the all-time list and the hosts had great chances to net the winner.

Liverpool were screaming for a penalty after what appeared to be a blatant hand ball by Odegaard and Salah led a full-speed counter-attack to set up Trent Alexander-Arnold whose shot struck the crossbar.

Arsenal forward Bukayo Saka curled a shot wide in the dying minutes that deflected off Virgil van Dijk’s back, but both teams had to settle for a point, a good result for Manchester City.

Liverpool lost Kostas Tsimikas to what Klopp said was a broken collarbone in the first half when Saka barrelled into the defender near the touchline, taking down Klopp as well. Tsimikas walked gingerly off the pitch with the aid of medical staff clutching his shoulder.

Source: Reuters