Monday, July 15, 2024

Arsenal held by Liverpool in blow to Premier League title bid

Premier League
Liverpool's French defender Ibrahima Konate (second left) and Arsenal's Brazilian midfielder Gabriel Martinelli vie in the air for the ball during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield in Liverpool April 9, 2023. — AFP pic

LIVERPOOL, April 10: Arsenal blew a two-goal lead in a pulsating 2-2 draw at Liverpool on Sunday to give Manchester City fresh hope of retaining the Premier League title.
Mikel Arteta’s men edged six points ahead of City at the top of the table, but the defending champions now have the destiny of the title in their own hands.
City have a game in hand and host the Gunners at the Etihad later this month.
Goals from Gabriel Martinelli and Gabriel Jesus appeared to have Arsenal cruising towards an eighth consecutive league win.
But Mohamed Salah pulled a goal back before half-time to spark a Liverpool fightback.
Salah missed a second-half penalty before Roberto Firmino headed in the equaliser three minutes from time.
Jurgen Klopp’s men then missed a series of chances to complete the comeback as Arsenal goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale salvaged a point for his side.
But the match will also live long in the memory for a remarkable incident just after the half-time whistle when assistant referee Constantine Hatzidakis thrust an elbow into the face of Liverpool left-back Andy Robertson.
Arsenal remain without an away league win to Liverpool since 2012 as they stumbled over one of the major hurdles between them and the title despite a perfect start.
It took just eight minutes for the visitors to make the breakthrough as Bukayo Saka surged through the Liverpool defence and the ball broke kindly for Martinelli to prod past his Brazilian international teammate Alisson Becker.
Only a glaring miss from Jesus and a fine save by Alisson to deny Oleksandr Zinchenko prevented Arsenal from being out of sight within 15 minutes.
Virgil van Dijk’s slump in form has played a major role in Liverpool’s collapse from the team that came close to an unprecedented quadruple last season to mid-table mediocrity.
The Dutch centre-back was caught on his heels as Arsenal doubled their lead when Jesus was left unmarked to head in Martinelli’s cross on 28 minutes.
But signs of a youthful side going for their first title finally showed once Salah halved the arrears three minutes before half-time.
Liverpool could even have been level by the break as Jordan Henderson blazed another big chance over.
But that was just the start of the drama as Robertson was elbowed by assistant referee Hatzidakis as the players left the field for half-time.
That incident fired Liverpool up as they came flying out the blocks in the second half and had a golden opportunity to level when Rob Holding brought down Diogo Jota, but Salah slotted the penalty wide.
Salah nearly made amends moments later as Ramsdale produced a stunning save to keep his side in front and the England goalkeeper was needed again nine minutes from time to save a one-on-one with Darwin Nunez.
Firmino finally made Liverpool’s pressure count when he headed home Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross to set up a grandstand finish.
Salah blazed over a glorious chance before Ramsdale made remarkable saves from the Egyptian and Ibrahima Konate to ensure Arsenal escaped just with a point.
But Liverpool’s rally may prove too little, too late both on the day and for their chances of Champions League football next season.
The Reds have failed to win any of their five games since a remarkable 7-0 win over Manchester United last month.
Liverpool remain down in eighth, 12 points adrift of the top four.
Crystal Palace thrash Leeds to boost survival bid
Crystal Palace boosted their bid for Premier League survival with a 5-1 demolition of relegation rivals Leeds on Sunday.
Roy Hodgson’s side erased Patrick Bamford’s first half opener with a superb display of counter-attacking at Elland Road.
Marc Guehi equalised just before the break and Palace turned on the style after half-time with emphatic finishes from Jordan Ayew, who netted twice, Eberechi Eze and Odsonne Edouard.
Palace’s first win at Elland Road since 2006 lifted them six points clear of the relegation zone, while Leeds remain just two points adrift of the bottom three.
The south Londoners were without a win in 2023 before Hodgson replaced the sacked Patrick Vieira until the end of the season.
Palace had gone three games without mustering a single shot on target in the final days of Vieira’s reign, but their biggest league win since 2020 showed Hodgson has already made a major impact.
Hodgson, in his second spell as Palace boss, had inspired an important 2-1 win against fellow strugglers Leicester in his first match and his second game was even more impressive.
Palace star Wilfried Zaha was sidelined due to a groin injury, an ominous absence given they had won only four of their last 33 league games without the Ivory Coast forward.
The early signs were not encouraging for Palace as Sam Johnstone, making his first top-flight appearance since 2021, had to repel Brenden Aaronson’s shot before leaping to his left to save Luis Sinisterra’s stinging strike.
Sinisterra was a constant menace in the first half and the Colombian tested Johnstone twice in quick succession from a pair of Luke Ayling crosses.
Leeds’ pressure was finally rewarded in the 21st minute when Bamford met Aaronson’s corner with a glancing header that bounced in off the far post.
Barely able to escape their own half before Bamford’s goal, Palace threatened when Jeffrey Schlupp headed against the post before Ayew’s effort was cleared off the line.
Leeds resumed their barrage, with Jack Harrison’s free-kick palmed away by Johnstone and Robin Koch’s header saved by the over-worked Palace keeper.
Pascal Struijk’s header forced yet another superb save from Johnstone moments later.
But somehow Palace survived the siege and snatched an equaliser in first half stoppage-time.
Eze whipped in a free-kick that Schlupp flicked towards Guehi, who got to the ball before Leeds keeper Illan Meslier and volleyed home from close-range.
Palace were energised by their leveller and took the lead in the 53rd minute.
Ayew had scored only once all season but he rose to meet Olise’s pin-point cross with a fine header that gave Meslier no chance.
Hodgson’s men had all the momentum and they struck again two minutes later as Eze found Olise, raced onto his return pass and slotted home from 10 yards.
With Leeds in disarray, Edouard drove in Palace’s fourth goal from Olise’s pass in the 69th minute and Ayew bagged the fifth with a close-range finish eight minutes later. (AFP)