Liverpool came from behind to maintain a perfect start to their Premier League title defence as goals from Sadio Mane, Andy Robertson and Diogo Jota saw off a resilient Arsenal 3-1 at Anfield.
The Gunners had also won their opening two league games of the season and hit the champions on the counter-attack to take the lead through Alexandre Lacazette.
But while Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United, Tottenham and now Arsenal have all lost in the opening three weeks of the new campaign, Liverpool have taken maximum points to lay down an early marker that they remain the team to beat in the Premier League this season.
The outcome of the match could have been very different had Mane not escaped with just a yellow card for an elbow on Kieran Tierney after just three minutes.
Arsenal followed the game plan that had brought them two victories over Liverpool in recent months as they dropped deep then looked to play around the Reds’ press when in possession.
However, unlike when they met at the back end of last season’s Premier League when Jurgen Klopp’s men had already won the league or the Community Shield in August, Liverpool were far sharper in pulling the Gunners out of position.
Mane was first to threaten with a clean strike from Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross that was too close to Bernd Leno before Alexander-Arnold’s deflected effort came back off the crossbar.
The only time Arsenal did manage to pierce the Liverpool press before half-time, they opened the scoring completely against the run of play.
Robertson was at fault as he spooned Ainsley Maitland-Niles’s cross into the path of Lacazette, who also failed to make a proper connection but the ball bounced into the ground and looped over the helpless Alisson Becker.
Liverpool responded immediately to level within three minutes as Salah outmuscled Tierney and when his shot was parried across goal by Leno, Mane turned into an empty net.
Robertson them made amends for his previous error as Liverpool’s flying full-backs combined as Alexander-Arnold’s cross was this time converted by the Scotland captain.
However, where Arsenal sides of recent years might have collapsed, as they did in losing 4-0 and 5-1 at Anfield in 2018 and 2019, Mikel Arteta has instilled a new-found belief in the FA Cup winners.
The visitors were more expansive after the break and created a huge chance to level when Dani Ceballos put Lacazette through on goal, but Alisson stood up well to block the French striker’s shot.
Klopp introduced Jota for his league debut 10 minutes from time and the Portuguese international should have sealed the win when he fired into the side-netting from Salah’s excellent through ball.
The Egyptian was less generous moments later when he stole the ball of Jota’s toes and failed to beat Leno.
But Jota did not have to wait long for his first Liverpool goal as a sweetly-struck volley found the bottom corner to show why the Reds spent £41 million ($52 million) to sign him from Wolves.
Patrice Evra: I’m sick of giving the Ballon D’or to Messi
Patrice Evra has admitted that he is tired of watching Lionel Messi win the Ballon d’Or, and the current Paris Saint-Germain star has done it six times in his career.
This year’s 2021 Ballon d’Or race looks more open than it used to be, with Evra even named Chelsea team N’Golo Kante and Jorginho as winners who should be better than Leo Messi.
“In my opinion, this Ballon d’Or belongs to Kante or Jorginho … I’m sick of giving it to Messi,” Evra said.
“What did you win last year? All right, Copa America and Argentina. What did you do with Barcelona?”
Competing with Leo Messi, Kante, and Jorginho in the Ballon d’Or race are the likes of Karim Benzema, Robert Lewandowski, and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Man U need to change something’ after losing 4-2 at Leicester – Pogba
Leicester ended their opponents’ 29-game unbeaten run away from home to increase the pressure on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Manchester United’s Paul Pogba suggested that his side lack maturity and experience as they were beaten 4-2 in the Premier League at Leicester.
Pogba has declared something needs to change at Manchester United following their 4-2 Premier League defeat to Leicester City. “We need to find something, we need to change something.”
The Frenchman played the entirety of United’s latest defeat that ended their 29-game unbeaten run away from home.
The defeat leaves Ole Gunnar Solskjaer under further scrutiny as United’s own winless run extends to three games as they continue to look less than the sum of their expensive parts.
“To be honest, we’ve been having this kind of game for a long time and we haven’t found the problem,” Pogba said.
“We need to find what’s the problem, to concede easy goals, stupid goals, when we know those games where we play on this pitch, the fans are going to push, put pressure on us and everything. We need to be more mature, I think. We need to play with more experience, arrogance in a good way. We have to take the ball and play our football.
“But now we have to find what’s the key of these games that we lose. Because I think we deserved to lose today.
“We need to find something, we need to change something. I don’t know if the mindset of all of us, the players, when we start… we really don’t know. It’s frustrating because it’s something we don’t understand and we have to find that very fast because if you want to compete and you want to win the title, those games you have to win, even though they are very hard and we’re playing away.
“You need to fight their game, you need to find the right mentality, the right tactic to win those games. That’s my thought. We have time to think about it and then all together, we have to stick together and find the problem.”
Ole: I made bad decisions
United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted that he “probably made a couple of bad decisions” with his team selection
Harry Maguire made a surprise return against his former club after recovering from injury, while Cristiano Ronaldo returned to the line-up after being rested against Everton. Yet it was the central midfield area where Manchester United struggled as Pogba and Nemanja Matic were badly overrun at times.
Solskjaer admitted he made errors with the way his team set up.
“The four goals we conceded were very poor,” he told Sky Sports.
“When you concede goals like that in the way we did, we don’t deserve to continue that run. Definitely the performance was very below-par and not good enough. We got a very good goal with Mason and we were knocking on the door to get another one; sloppy play and we concede a goal.
“In the second half, it was end-to-end but they created more chances and conceding at set-pieces was disappointing. Conceding seconds after the equaliser shouldn’t happen. I picked the team; Harry showed no reaction. I hold my hand up if it doesn’t work out and sometimes it doesn’t.
“When you concede four, I probably made a couple of bad decisions.”
Merse: Solskjaer in a spot of bother
Paul Merson speaking on Soccer Saturday, said, “I think Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is in a spot of bother.
“I said before the game if that he can get through November still in the job, then they would have every chance of winning the league because they have some shocking fixtures – and this was the start of it and they have been beaten. Leicester thoroughly deserved it too.
“Manchester United are struggling. I’ve said that Arsenal could finish above them in the top four and I haven’t changed my mind.
“They are individuals, they are not a team. They haven’t got legs all around the pitch and because Ronaldo can’t go in behind defences, the other teams are all pushing up on them and that means Pogba doesn’t get time on the ball. For me, Solskjaer is under severe pressure.”
Manchester United’s gruelling run
Manchester United face a formidable set of fixtures in October and November as they look to keep pace in the Premier League and ensure Champions League qualification, with Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham and the Manchester derby looming domestically.
Balogun to critics: You can’t criticise me for not trying
Super Eagles defender Leon Balogun has defended his commitment to the Nigeria national side after recent criticisms directed at him over his performances.
The Rangers Glasgow’s defender has come under scathing criticisms following the country’s defeat to Central African Republic during their 2022 World Cup qualifier at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos last Thursday.
The centre-back was held responsible for the late goal conceded against the minnows following a mix-up with his defensive partner William Troost-Ekong, allowing CAR forward Karl Namnganda through on goal before slotting past Francis Uzoho, in goal for the Eagles.
However, the 33-year-old redeemed himself by scoring against CAR in the second game of the double-header clash in Douala, Cameroon – his first strike for Nigeria since he made his debut in 2014.
In an interview with ESPN, the centre-back said he had always given 100 per cent for Nigeria.
You’ve seen me play for a few years now. And you know that when I step onto the pitch I always give 100 per cent and I am always passionate,” Balogun said.
“Whether I am having a good performance or a bad performance, you can never actually criticise me for not trying. That is what I always give, that is the least I can do.”
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