The bandaged head of Martin Skrtel rescued a dramatic 2-2 Barclays Premier League draw for 10-man Liverpool against Arsenal on Sunday. After sealing a place in the League Cup semi-finals on Wednesday, Liverpool capped a positive week with a deserved point at Anfield, despite having Fabio Borini sent off in stoppage time.
The hosts, who dominated the first half, led through Philippe Coutinho, but were almost immediately pegged back by Mathieu Debuchy before the interval. From there Arsene Wenger's men grew in confidence and went ahead courtesy of France striker Olivier Giroud's third goal in two matches midway through the second half. Brendan Rodgers' men pushed hard for a leveller, only for Borini's late dismissal to dent their hopes. But Skrtel rose to nod home Adam Lallana's corner deep into nine minutes of stoppage time, most of which was added for a head injury to the Slovakia defender.
Liverpool had the better of the early stages but struggled to craft any clear chances until the 34th minute when Lazar Markovic was denied by Wojciech Szczesny. Markovic burst into the box and attempted to lift the ball over Szczesny at the near post, but the Pole was equal to it and produced a strong save to preserve parity. But Liverpool were rewarded for their near-complete dominance of the opening period in the final minute of normal time as Coutinho struck. Collecting the ball just inside the edge of the area, the Brazilian worked space for himself and fired in a low shot in off the far post to give his side the lead.
However, Liverpool's celebrations were cut short as Rodgers saw his side's lead almost immediately erased by Debuchy. The Frenchman headed in at the far post from Mathieu Flamini's nodded assist after Liverpool had failed to clear a free-kick.
Neither that setback nor the long delay caused by Skrtel's collision with the boot of Giroud dented Liverpool's ambition to attack. Gerrard headed over with the goal at his mercy after Szceszny had rushed out to challenge Raheem Sterling for a loose ball.
Liverpool were immediately punished for their captain's miss as Arsenal took the lead with a free-flowing move. Giroud slid Santi Cazorla in down the left with a first-time pass and capped off the attack with a low finish under Brad Jones from the Spaniard's resulting pull back.
Borini, who had come on for Kolo Toure, saw a point-blank header tipped over by Szczesny, before the Italian's high challenge on Cazorla earned him a second booking, having received a yellow card for slamming the ball to the turf in frustration.
Yet Skrtel ensured there would be a final twist in the tale, powering Lallana's delivery into the bottom-right corner to complete an eventful afternoon for the defender.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger: "It was maybe a fair result, but we are disappointed to give a goal away with a free header from a corner.
"It was an intense game. We played a little bit with a handbrake in the first half. Liverpool played well. We lost the ball too quickly in the first half; when you are not used to something it was frustrating.
"In the long stoppage time you have to survive two, three corners and free-kicks. For their goal, we had plenty of defenders on the pitch.
"It's disappointing that we didn't even jump. You want everybody to be focused on the corner."
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers: "It was an outstanding performance. Our passing and movement on the pitch, which is terrible, was superb.
"I'm delighted with our performances this week against Manchester United, Bournemouth and Arsenal, it shows we are getting back to where we are.
"At half-time we asked for more of the same with the same movement and then we showed great character to fight back from 2-1 down with 10 men.
"I don't think before this week we have been close to that level of speed and thought. You have to be creative as a coach to find a system that brings you back to that."
|26 Dec 2014||v Burnley (A)|
|29 Dec 2014||v Swansea (H)|
|01 Jan 2015||v Leicester (H)|
|10 Jan 2015||v Sunderland (A)|
|17 Jan 2015||v Aston Villa (A)|
|31 Jan 2015||v West Ham (H)|