Arsenal overcame Granit Xhaka’s red card and dug deep to hold Liverpool to a goalless draw in the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final, giving them hope of reaching the showpiece at Wembley.
Xhaka handed the home side the initiative when he brought down Diogo Jota, who was charging in on goal before the Swiss stuck a boot into his ribcage.
However, the hosts looked sloppy and ponderous in possession during the first half, often allowing Arsenal to regain numbers in defence as they struggled to break down their visitors.
The Gunners were dangerous on the counter, with Bukayo Saka particularly lively, but they couldn’t maintain possession for long enough and were consigned to dealing with Liverpool pressure for most of the contest.
Despite their persistent knocking, Liverpool failed to register a shot on target in the opening 80 minutes, with the absences of AFCON duo Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane particularly evident.
Jota has thrived alongside that pair while Takumi Minamino has already scored four goals in the Carabao Cup this season, but neither of them nor Roberto Firmino looked like netting on a disappointing night for the Anfield side.
It was Minamino who had the chance to win the game after Aaron Ramsdale made a hash of a cross, but he could only slice a half-volley into row Z with the goal at his mercy.
The draw gives Arsenal – who had Martin Odegaard ruled out with Covid-19 before Cedric Soares got injured and was substituted within 12 minutes – real hope of reaching the final, with Chelsea awaiting the winners of the tie.
The next leg is due to be played next Thursday at the Emirates.
Alisson (GK) – 7/10 – Made his League Cup debut. Came out quickly to deny Saka in the second half.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (RB) – 6/10 – Couldn’t muster much in an attacking sense, looking a little flat in his first match since contracting Covid-19.
Joel Matip (CB) – 8/10 – Looked like Liverpool’s most creative player at times, charging out from the back. Bailed his defensive colleagues out of trouble a few times.
Virgil van Dijk (CB) – 6/10 – Mistake allowed Saka to nip in behind but Matip covered for him. Dominant in the air.
Andy Robertson (LB) – 5/10 – Got in behind on a few occasions and looked dangerous. Booked for pulling back Saka and struggled with the England man.
Jordan Henderson (CM) – 6/10 – Bustled around with his usual vigour, looking to get on the ball and take it forward. Could have done with a more creative outlet alongside him.
Fabinho (CM) – 5/10 – Rarely misplaced a pass as the deepest of Liverpool’s midfielders. Had the ball stolen off him on a couple of occasions.
James Milner (CM) – 5/10 – Industrious but little more than that. Brought off for Jones.
Takumi Minamino (RW) – 5/10 – Nearly netted with a cross that had Ramsdale worried. Missed the chance to win the game with an awful effort.
Roberto Firmino (ST) – 5/10 – Nearly got on the end of a few crosses and had a couple of moments of interplay that just didn’t come off. Not particularly influential.
Diogo Jota (LW) – 5/10 – Dispossessed a little too frequently during the first hour. Has done well alongside Mane and Salah but couldn’t be the main man here.
Curtis Jones (CM) – 6/10 – Displayed some lovely touches moments after his introduction.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (CM) – 5/10
Joe Gomez (CB) – 5/10
Neco Williams (RB) – 5/10
Aaron Ramsdale (GK) – 6/10 – Had some sketchy moments, slipping off his line once and then booting a clearance into Henderson – both mistakes coming in the opening 15 minutes. Went a little AWOL towards the end of the game with his positioning, but was only forced into one late save.
Cedric Soares (RB) – N/A – Picked up a knock and had to be substituted.
Ben White (CB) – 8/10 – Excellent. Marshalled Arsenal’s backline, stepped out to make tackles and interceptions and looked comfortable throughout.
Gabriel (CB) – 7/10 – Wobbly moment early on when he anxiously booted the ball past Ramsdale for a cheap corner. Stood up well to Liverpool’s intense pressure, though was booked for hauling down Jota.
Kieran Tierney (LB) – 7/10 – Not much of an attacking threat as Liverpool dominated, but the Scotsman looked steady at left-back.
Albert Sambi Lokonga (CM) – 6/10 – Given a tough task in central midfield when Xhaka was dismissed. Had a lot of work to get through and did it without fuss.
Granit Xhaka (CM) – 0/10 – Booted Jota in the stomach as the last man and got his marching orders 24 minutes into the first half. Going to Anfield is tough enough with 11 players, and another moment of madness from the Switzerland international made it even harder. Terrible judgement.
Alexandre Lacazette (AM) – 7/10 – Tried an audacious effort from range with Alisson off his line. Went properly up front when his side when down to ten men. Did well to hassle and nick the ball off Liverpool at times.
Bukayo Saka (RW) – 7/10 – Got in behind Liverpool’s defence from Van Dijk’s mistake but saw his shot blocked. Gave Robertson a lot of problems out wide. Had a good opportunity blocked by Alisson.
Eddie Nketiah (ST) – 5/10 – Only had five touches of the ball and was hooked for Holding following Xhaka’s red card. Given the speculation over his future and his lack of playing time, you have to feel for the youngster.
Gabriel Martinelli (LW) – 6/10 – Has been one of the form players in England recently but really struggled to see the ball. Became a more central figure as Arsenal tried to pack the midfield.
Calum Chambers (RB) – 7/10 – Came on for the stricken Cedric. Was resolute and compact as Arsenal secured a vital clean sheet.
Rob Holding (CB) – 7/10 – Replaced Nketiah. Helped Arsenal stay in the tie with a number of important clearances.
Nuno Tavares (RM) – 5/10
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