Liverpool beats Arsenal 2-0 to reignite Premier League race

Liverpool's Diogo Jota scores his side's second goal during the English League Cup semifinal second leg soccer match between Arsenal and Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium in London, Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
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LONDON (AP) — Liverpool reignited the Premier League title race and came within a point of the top spot with a 2-0 win over Arsenal on Wednesday after scoring two second-half goals to extend their winning streak to nine games.

Diogo Jota and substitute Roberto Firmino found the net within eight minutes of each other after a flat first-half performance from the visitors at Emirates Stadium.

Liverpool now has 69 points, one behind Manchester City, which slipped up with a 0-0 draw against Crystal Palace on Monday. If Liverpool can win its remaining nine matches, including against City on April 10, the Reds will win the league.

“Of course we have momentum,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said. “But momentum is the most fragile flower on the planet.”

His team is trying to reclaim the Premier League title from City, which lifted the trophy last season. Liverpool won it in 2020, its 19th league title overall.

Liverpool left back Andy Robertson predicted the title race could go down to the wire.

“They are a point ahead,” he said. “They are a fantastic team, one of the best in the world. Then it’s a sprint to the finish line.”

Jota beat Arsenal goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale at the near post in the 54th minute after the Liverpool forward latched onto a throughball from midfielder Thiago Alcântara. Ramsdale got a hand to Jota’s shot, but the keeper should have done better to keep the ball out.

The goal sparked wild celebrations in the away end as the Liverpool players ran over to their fans in the corner. That was Jota’s last action on the field as Klopp made a double substitution, bringing on Mohamed Salah, who had recovered from a foot injury, and Firmino.

It didn’t take long for Firmino to repay his manager’s faith. Robertson drove to the byline before cutting it back for the Brazilian, who flicked the ball past Ramsdale for Liverpool’s second in the 62nd.

Firmino jumped over the advertising boards and was hugged by the ecstatic Liverpool fans.

After the match, Klopp marched over to the cheering Liverpool supporters and pumped his fist in the air several times, with the fans responding in kind.

“Coming here against Arsenal and winning 2-0,” Klopp said. “That’s really special.”

Before the goals, Arsenal’s defense had largely been alert to the Liverpool threat.

And only three minutes before Jota’s goal, Arsenal should have scored. A poor backpass from Alcântara was collected by Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette. But Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker forced him to play the ball back to Arsenal midfielder Martin Ødegaard and the keeper then made a reflex save with his hand to deny the Norwegian.

Arsenal also failed to capitalize on an energetic first-half performance.

Arsenal worked both flanks in the opening interval, trying to get the ball quickly up the field to forwards Gabriel Martinelli on the left and Bukayo Saka on the right. But the final ball let the Gunners down time and time again.

Martinelli made a fine run down the left in the 15th minute and stormed past right back Trent Alexander-Arnold before delivering a low cross that nearly found Lacazette. But Robertson did well to clear the danger for Liverpool.

Martinelli nearly pulled back a goal for Arsenal in the 88th, but his rolling shot just missed squeezing in at the far post.

The result ended Arsenal’s five-game winning streak, with the Gunners remaining in fourth place with 51 points. They are a point ahead of Manchester United, but Arsenal has two games in hand.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said he was proud of his players for their performance.

“They really raised the level today,” he said. “But unfortunately games are won within the boxes. We opened the door and they scored two goals.”