Cech saves spare threadbare Arsenal and earn draw with Liverpool
A weakened Arsenal defence, missing both an unwell Per Mertesacker and injured Laurent Koscielny, had Petr Cech to thank as they somehow managed to avoid being breached by Liverpool. The Gunners thus ended the Merseysiders’ 100 per cent Premier League record with an inexplicable goalless draw at the Emirates.
With a total of 14 shots on target from 34 attempts made for an absorbing game, after which Arsenal remain 5/1 title chances with Coral.
Brendan Rodgers was bold in his selection, including Philippe Coutinho alongside summer signings Roberto Firmino and Christian Benteke, but twice the woodwork, with Cech tipping onto the post the second time, denied the Reds. The Gunners had Calum Chambers and Gabriel Paulista deputising at centre back, and were very fortunate not to concede.
Liverpool wasted no time in exploiting a soft Arsenal centre with Benteke poking wide following an early Chambers error. Coutinho then crashed an effort against the bar after great work from Benteke to get away from Gabriel and split down the right.
Rodgers’ Reds had frailties of their own with the Gunners failing to capitalise on a goalmouth scramble. Aaron Ramsey then had the ball in the net from a swift, incisive move down the left, but was adjudged offside. Replays were inconclusive.
France Coquelin, shielding that shaky Arsenal back four, had plenty of work to do, getting Chambers and Gabriel off the hook with a superb last-ditch lunging tackle to pinch the ball away from Benteke. James Milner then found a way through, but Cech denied him.
Lacking composure in defence meant building attacks from a usually solid foundation was absent from Wenger’s men, and is compelling evidence of a perceived need for rearguard reinforcements. Gabriel had to recover and get back at Benteke to stop the big Belgian pulling the trigger when he briefly looked clean through.
Cech’s sublime stop from Benteke at point-blank range when set up by Firmino kept the Gunners in it. Provider Firmino then tried his luck from the resultant corner, but brought a reaction save from the home goalie.
A third sensational stop from Cech, tipping Coutinho’s shot across his bows onto the far upright on the stroke of half-time, preserved parity at the break. Rodgers and Liverpool were left wondering how they were not ahead.
Hosts Arsenal were much improved after the break, and Sanchez struck the post on the hour mark when set up by Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud on the stretch.
Ten minutes later, Simon Mignolet tipped an effort from the France striker away, and later made saves from Ramsey twice and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain at the death, to keep a third clean sheet from as many matches.
Both teams had to settle for just a point from a crazy game, which should go down as one of the most absorbing 0-0 draws in Premier League history. Rodgers, whose Reds are still unbeaten, is now 11/8 to steer the Anfield outfit to a top four finish.