Arsenal 3-4 Liverpool: Coutinho stars in season’s first heavyweight bout
- Walcott gave Arsenal a 1-0 first-half lead
- Reds scored 4 goals in a row
- Gunners nearly brought it back level
Liverpool did not play well across the first 45 minutes, but they have Philippe Coutinho, and with the Brazilian spark plug, the fuse can ignite at any moment.
Coutinho scored a pair and assisted another as Liverpool won a free-flowing game 4-3 at the Emirates. The game swung back and forth, as the Gunners were up 1-0 most of the first half, the Reds scored four goals in a row to take control, and then the home side came just short of completing a remarkable late comeback.
The match began with a cagey nature, with Arsenal holding a fair amount of possession but being pressured by the Jurgen Klopp press. The first chance fell to the Gunners on 15 minutes when a long ball from Monreal was not cleared properly by Alberto Moreno, who instead headed directly into the path of Aaron Ramsey. The Reds defender made up for his mistake with a pinpoint tackle to see out the chance.
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Liverpool pressed well, but their attack seemed disjointed, finding themselves in offside positions or misplaced passes that killed chances early. The Reds had their first opportunity on 23 minutes, when Georgino Wijnaldum won the ball back from Monreal, leading Jordan Henderson to deliver a ball in to a free Roberto Firmino, but Hector Bellerin just put Firmino under enough pressure to see him bungle the chance.
Arsenal should have gone in front when given a penalty in the 29th minute. Moreno needlessly dropped Theo Walcott at the edge of the area, and the referee pointed directly to the spot. Simon Mignolet produced a fantastic save on the penalty, as Walcott looked to poke it into the low corner. Walcott would atone minutes later, however, as he’d get behind Moreno. Alex Iwobi found him on the right, and the English international found the far corner for a 1-0 Arsenal lead.
69 - There were 69 seconds between Theo Walcott's penalty miss and Theo Walcott's goal against Liverpool. Response.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 14, 2016
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Liverpool’s physical nature of play began to build up the card count, with Moreno earning himself a yellow card for his foul on Walcott, and both Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren picked up first-half cautions. The Reds appeared second-best for much of the first half, but Philippe Coutinho single-handedly brought them back level on the stroke of halftime.
Into first-half injury time, Coutinho won a questionable free-kick, and took the strike from well outside the area, and from at least 30 yards out he deposited an absolutely outrageous strike into the top corner past a helpless Petr Cech. The goal is the second straight on opening day for Coutinho, having scored the 1-0 winner against Stoke City last season.
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Following the break, Liverpool looked much more cohesive, and they were duly rewarded. Coutinho cut into the left edge of the box and plucked a beautiful flick to a waiting Adam Lallana on the far side. The England international chested it down and finished cooly from a tight angle for a 2-1 lead just four minutes after the break.
Just minutes after that, Coutinho would get his second goal and put the Reds 3-1 up as Nathaniel Clyne whipped in a pacey cross and the Brazilian easily touched home from point-blank range. Arsenal looked shell-shocked, and it would get worse. Sadio Mane ran straight around Calum Chambers and ripped an off-balance scorcher into the top corner for a 4-1 Liverpool lead.
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The Reds weren’t able to celebrate their stunning scoreline for long, as the Gunners picked up a lifeline in what turned into a goal fest. Substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored just 56 seconds after Mane’s goal, emulating his predecessor by flicking the ball past Nathaniel Clyne and beating Simon Mignolet at his near post.
Coutinho was removed on 70 minutes after cramping up suddenly on a one-on-two breakaway, replaced by Emre Can. Arsenal brought on debutant Granit Xhaka to shore up the midfield, and the Gunners would grab a lifeline. With 15 minutes remaining, a beautiful curling free-kick from substitute Santi Cazorla glanced off the head of a rising Chambers in the box, and the Gunners were suddenly back within one.
The home side poured numbers and pressure forward, but it wasn’t enough as the Gunners were downed by Liverpool at home for just the second time in their last 21 meetings.