Arsenal score three in five minutes but Liverpool strike back to earn draw

Roberto Firmino’s powerful finish earned Liverpool a draw in an incredible Premier League encounter that had seen Arsenal score three goals in just five second-half minutes.

The Gunners had been trailing 2-0 after Philippe Coutinho scored his first headed league goal in England before Mohamed Salah added a second early in the second half with a deflected strike.

But Arsenal suddenly came alive as Alexis Sanchez headed in Hector Bellerin’s cross from close range before Granit Xhaka’s thumping strike was too powerful for Simon Mignolet’s weak save.

Barely two minutes later Mesut Ozil put Arsenal ahead with a neat clip over Mignolet.

Play swung from one end of the pitch to the other at blistering pace, with both sides looking capable of scoring with every attack.

But it was Liverpool who had the final say in one of the most thrilling Premier League encounters in years as Petr Cech could only take the sting out of Firmino’s shot and the ball bounced over the line.

The point meant Liverpool held onto fourth place, with Arsenal remaining fifth – a point behind the Reds.

How a crazy six minutes panned out

Mohamed Salah, Alexis Sanchez, Granit Xhaka, Mesut Ozil

This had looked like being a routine win for Liverpool after a dominant first half.

They led through Coutinho’s clever header and should have had more but for some uncharacteristically wasteful finishing by Sadio Mane and Salah.

However, it was not long until the Premier League’s top scorer had his 15th of the season, and so began an incredible six minutes…

52 mins: Salah races on to Firmino’s superb pass and makes it 2-0 with a deflected finish. Arsenal, who have not had a single shot on target, look beaten.

53 mins: Out of nowhere, Arsenal are back in it. Sanchez is well placed to nod in Bellerin’s cross from close range.

56 mins: What’s going on!? Arsenal are level! Xhaka tries his luck from 25 yards and the ball fizzes through Mignolet’s hand.

58 mins: Goals! Goals! Goals! Arsenal are ahead as Ozil is on to Alexandre Lacazette’s backheel before clipping the ball over Mignolet.

‘Fab Four’ deliver but defence doesn’t

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp is not too keen on the ‘Fab Four’ nickname that has been given to his attacking quartet of Coutinho, Salah, Mane and Firmino, but he might have to develop an acceptance for it as they continue to dominate the headlines.

Three of them scored in this game and, in truth, all four should have been on the scoresheet, with Mane going for the acrobatic with a first-half scissor kick with Cech beaten.

The quartet have now collectively accounted for 29 of Liverpool’s past 34 goals and while the Reds’ attacking strength cannot be questioned – they have scored at least three goals in their past four Premier League away games – the defence can.

Liverpool had conceded 16 goals in their first nine league games and while they had stemmed the tide in the games since the 4-1 defeat by Tottenham at the end of October, familiar frailties arose in this encounter as players switched off after conceding, while Mignolet should have done better with Xhaka’s effort.

A tale of two halves for Arsenal

Arsenal touchmap
Arsenal showed little attacking intent in the first half, managing just seven touches inside the box (left graphic). They were more adventurous after the break and touched the ball 19 times in the Liverpool box

David de Gea’s saves against Arsenal for Manchester United earlier this month appeared to have had a long-lasting impact on the Gunners.

Since Jose Mourinho’s side beat them 3-1 at the start of the month – with De Gea making 14 saves that day – Arsenal had struggled to convert shots into goals, having 56 attempts in the three Premier League games before Liverpool’s visit, putting 12 of those on target and scoring just twice.

It was more of the same in the first half of this game as Mignolet enjoyed once of the easiest 45 minutes of his career. Arsenal managed just one shot – and that was wide of goal – but all that changed in the second half as they scored from all but one of their shots on target.

The Gunners were no doubt helped by Liverpool’s poor defensive performance, but Arsene Wenger praised the character of his side to stage such a fightback.

“In the first half we were paralysed and frozen,” said Wenger. “We gave too many balls away and looked second best everywhere.

“In the second half we have shown quality, character and played at our level.”

Man of the match – Roberto Firmino

Roberto Firmino
With an assist and a goal Roberto Firmino was often involved in Liverpool’s best attacks and his all-round performance deserved to have put him on the winning side

‘Point is the minimum we deserve’

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp: “You need to be angry with yourself, not sad or insecure. We came back into the game and scored our third. The point is the minimum we deserve. Because of the intensity of the game it was not easy to create clearer chances. When you get a point at Arsenal it is usually OK but after this give me a few minutes to get there.

“Three goals at Arsenal should be enough. We defended most of the time pretty well. We did not give space away. After they score the first and the second, it is not easy but we need to deal with these situations better.”

Another high-scoring encounter – the stats

  • There have been 27 goals scored in the past five Premier League meetings between these teams (10 for Arsenal, 17 for Liverpool) at an average of 5.4 per game.
  • Liverpool have scored 54 away goals in all competitions in 2017, their most in a calendar year since 1982 (66).
  • There were just 388 seconds between Mo Salah putting Liverpool 2-0 ahead and Mesut Ozil scoring to make it 3-2 to Arsenal.
  • Arsenal have conceded seven goals in two league games against Liverpool this season – in only one Premier League campaign have they conceded more against an opponent (10 against Man Utd in 2011-12).
  • Since Jurgen Klopp’s first Premier League match in charge in October 2015, Liverpool’s games have seen 279 goals scored (174 for, 105 against), more than any other club.
  • Philippe Coutinho has been involved in 16 goals in 11 away matches in all competitions (nine goals, seven assists).
  • Coutinho scored his 53rd goal for Liverpool in all competitions – however, this was his first headed goal for the Reds.
  • Roberto Firmino has been involved in eight goals in his past five Premier League appearances against Arsenal (five goals, three assists).
  • Firmino has also scored and assisted in each of his past three Premier League games against the Gunners.

What next?

Arsenal have a bit of time to enjoy the Christmas break. They are next in action on 28 December when they travel to Crystal Palace (20:00 GMT). Liverpool, meanwhile, have a shorter turnaround because they host Swansea on Boxing Day (17:30 GMT).

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