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Third straight win for Liverpool after refree failed to sent off Mane for assault

Liverpool's Diogo Jota, centre, is congratulated by teammate Fabinho after scoring his team's third goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield in Liverpool, England, Monday, Sept. 28, 2020. (Jason Cairnduff/Pool via AP)
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LIVERPOOL (AP) – Three wins from three games, two big rivals dispatched, and an expensive new signing already on the scoresheet.

Liverpool is making an ominous start to its title defense in the English Premier League.

The champion’s high-risk, high-reward strategy paid off in its come-from-behind 3-1 win over Arsenal on Monday in an open game featuring a late clinching goal by Diogo Jota in his first league start for Liverpool.

“This was absolutely exceptional,” Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp said, “100% dominant against a team in form.”

Liverpool gave up some glaring chances inside an empty Anfield by deploying an aggressive press and a high line — Alexandre Lacazette, who put Arsenal ahead, squandered two one-on-one opportunities at 2-1 — but the brave tactic forced many openings of its own.

“Of course there’s some risk,” Klopp said. “But we want to win the ball as high as possible. Not frustrated, not disappointed at all.”

He’ll be pleased the way the nascent standings look, too.

Liverpool is one of three teams to have opened with three straight wins, including over Chelsea and now Arsenal. With two of its other main rivals — Manchester City and Manchester United — having already lost a game each, the start to the season could hardly have gone better for Liverpool.

Sadio Mane avoids red card for elbowing Kieran Tierney in the face before  scoring Liverpool's equaliser against Arsenal

Arsenal dropped points for the first time but was threatening to beat Liverpool for a third straight month — after wins in the league in July and the Community Shield in August — when Lacazette took advantage of a rare mistake by Andrew Robertson to give the visitors a 25th-minute lead.

Sadio Mane equalized inside three minutes before Robertson made amends by scoring himself after controlling a cross from Liverpool’s other flying full back, Trent Alexander-Arnold.

That wild nine-minute period, featuring three goals, characterized a high-risk game plan from Liverpool that causes chaos for its opponents because of the way they are squeezed high up.

Break the press and Liverpool is in trouble, though, and Lacazette was played through clean on goal in the second half for chances to equalize. Both of his efforts were tame and comfortably saved by Alisson, and Lacazette was spotted hiding his head in his jersey in the dugout after being substituted.

Jota sealed victory in the 88th by driving in a shot that glanced the post as it went in, after David Luiz’s headed clearance only reached the edge of the area.

“It’s an amazing feeling, of course,” said Jota, who recently joined from Wolverhampton for 41 million pounds ($52 million). “I just wish it was in front of a full stadium.”


Nothing appears to have changed at Fulham.

The last time the southwest London club was in the Premier League — in the 2018-19 season — it conceded a division-high 81 goals and got relegated.

Already in its first season back in the top flight, Fulham has let in 10 goals and lost all three of its matches — the latest being at home to Aston Villa 3-0.

Jack Grealish, Conor Hourihane and Tyrone Mings benefitted from dreadful defending to score the goals at Craven Cottage, as Fulham conceded at least three goals for the third straight game.

“I should (and) will apologize repeatedly for that performance,” Fulham owner Tony Khan tweeted. “I’m sorry everybody. We all need to do a better job.”

Villa, meanwhile, has opened with two straight wins and kept two clean sheets in the process, looking a far tighter unit than the one which avoided relegation only on the final day of last season.