Arsenal held by Liverpool in blow to Premier League title bid
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.