HomeLifestyleLiverpool 0 Arsenal 0: Frustration for Klopp as Reds fail to break down 10-man Gunners after Xhaka's early red card
Liverpool 0 Arsenal 0: Frustration for Klopp as Reds fail to break down 10-man Gunners after Xhaka's early red card
FROM 40 false positives to one big negative for Jurgen Klopp.
Liverpool’s Carabao Cup semi-final against Arsenal is proving to be anything but straightforward.
Despite playing against 10 men for 66 minutes at Anfield, Jurgen Klopp’s team were unable to find a way past a stubborn Arsenal men team who lost Granit Xhaka with a straight red after a stupid challenge on Diogo Jota.
And you have to give enormous credit to Arsenal for defending superbly and fighting like hell to frustrate Klopp’s team.
With Ben White and first-half substitute Calum Chambers both outstanding in defence, Arsenal showed some real guts away from home with their backs to the wall, something we have not always seen over the last few years.
Mikel Arteta’s team now appear to have the slight edge ahead of next Thursday’s semi-final at the Emirates as they look to secure a London derby in the final against Chelsea.
This was supposed to be the second leg until those 40 false positive tests at Liverpool forced last week’s first leg to be postponed.
The hosts were playing their first domestic Cup semi-final for five years and they named a strong team despite Mo Salah and Sadio Mane being away on Afcon duty.
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That included a start for Alisson who was featuring in his first EFL Cup game since arriving in Liverpool from Roma in 2018.
Yet the Brazilian had a quiet evening and despite their one-man advantage, Liverpool failed to make it a busy night for Arsenal keeper Aaron Ramsdale.
Yet Liverpool’s lack of quality in the final third was summed up in the 90th minute when Taki Minamino blazed over when he had an open goal.
And the night would certainly have been easier for Arteta had Xhaka avoided his fifth dismissal for Arsenal.
He actually pulled off the feat of effectively managing two red cards with one challenge on as his lunge was at Jota high while he was also the last man.
The Swiss midfielder will now miss the north London derby against Spurs on Sunday along with Thursday’s second leg at home to Liverpool at the Emirates
Xhaka was shown a straight red against Manchester City in August for a challenge on Joao Cancelo but reckons he begins games "closer to a red card" than other players.
Xhaka is probably right – but it is his fault rather than the referee's.
And the game would have been a lot easier for Arsenal had Xhaka not lost the plot as he tried to cut out a long cross from Andy Robertson.
Keeper Ramsdale was going to rush off his line but hesitated, although it was not the first time he lacked composure during the evening.
Xhaka found himself in a difficult situation, panicked and delivered the silly challenge and referee Michael Oliver had no hesitation in showing a straight red.
Central defender Gabriel hardly helped his team as he had pushed up in the middle of the Liverpool half when trying to close down Bobby Firmino but did not get close enough to the Brazilian forward to cut out the move.
Once Robertson delivered his long punt, Gabriel was caught hopelessly out of position with Xhaka having to cover his team-mate.
Arsenal had made a change in the 11th minute when Chambers replaced the injured Cedric Soares.
So, the game was not even 30 minutes old and Arteta was forced into a second switch for tactical reasons with Eddie Nketiah replaced by defender Rob Holding.
Even on a night like this, Bukayo Saka looks like a real star for Arsenal with his fine technique and reading of the game.
Alexandre Lacazette, who started the game playing as a No10 until Nketiah’s substitution, did a hell of a lot of running.
MARK HALSEY’S VERDICT
ON Xhaka’s red card
GRANIT XHAKA made it easy for Michael Oliver to send him off after his challenge on Diogo Jota.
The Arsenal midfielder tried stretching to reach Andy Roberton’s long ball but only succeeded in clattering into the Liverpool attacker.
It is not clear whether Oliver shows the red card for serious foul play or a denial of an obvious goal scoring opportunity (DOGSO).
With Xhaka’s boot connecting into Jota’s chest you could argue the challenge is endangering the player’s safety.
However, if it was DOGSO there is an element of doubt to the likelihood of Jota keeping or regaining control of the ball as his first touch bounces off his chest at pace.
Either way, Xhaka has forced Oliver into making a decision which went against him.
Liverpool failed to carve open Arsenal until halfway inside the second half butMinamino delivered a shot which went for a goal-kick even though Ramsdale looked to have got a fingertip to it
And Arsenal took 70 minutes to test Alisson with the Brazilian blocking a strike from Saka who later substituted after being handed some tablets and a water by a club medic.
And despite Liverpool pressing, with Minamino missing that sitter, Arsenal remained organised at the back and gave very little away.
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And in many respects, this draw was even more encouraging than some of the results Arsenal have delivered this season in their unlikely bid for the Champions League.
Having been booted out of the FA Cup by Nottingham Forest, they still have a half decent chance of finishing the season with a trophy.
For Tottenham fans, the one positive from their midweek – which saw them knocked out by Chelsea – will be that Arsenal’s players who covered so much ground could be knackered on Sunday.