Arsenal salvaged a goalless draw at Anfield despite having to play with a man down for more than an hour against Jurgen Klopp’s men in their Carabao Cup semi-final first-leg tie.
The teams were supposed to meet last week, but the tie was called off after Liverpool requested the EFL to reschedule for not having enough players available.
Both teams still had a number of notable absentees because of covid, AFCON, and injuries.
No Salah or Mane
Liverpool fielded their first-choice back four but did not have Thiago in the middle as he is out with a long-term injury and lacked the flair of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane up-front who are away on national team duties.
Arsenal, on the other hand, lost Martin Odegaard before the match as the Norwegian’s covid test result returned positive.
The game came too soon for Takehiro Tomiyasu and Emile-Smith Rowe who are nursing injuries.
Thomas Partey was also a miss as he is playing for Ghana in the African Cup of Nations.
Lots of missed chances
Anfield has not been a happy place for Arsenal to visit in recent years and they seemed set for another hammering when Granit Xhaka got sent off for a high foot challenge on Diogo Jota.
Bukayo Saka charged through the right and sent the ball towards an onrushing Eddie Nketiah inside the Liverpool box.
The 22-year-old could not get to it, neither did Alexandre Lacazette behind him.
Andy Robertson picked up the ball and launched a diagonal to find Jota isolated in the Arsenal half.
The Portuguese only had Aaron Ramsdale to beat, so Xhaka felt he had to take one for the team to save the goal.
The Switzerland international’s tackle caught Jota in his chest, and referee Michael Oliver did not have to think much before bringing out the red.
Liverpool were already in the driving seat before Xhaka’s dismissal.
Jordan Henderson closed down Ramsdale as he was clearing the ball, but the Liverpool captain could not control the ball properly to send it to an empty net.
Ben White almost sent the ball into his net as he stretched to deny Roberto Firmino a whiff at Takumi Minamino’s low cross.
Sambi Lokonga had to get in the way to prevent Andy Robertson’s shot from hitting the target.
Lost opportunity for Liverpool
Surprisingly, Liverpool could not retain their momentum against a depleted Arsenal team.
Mikel Arteta introduced Rob Holding in expense of NKetiah and moved to a five-man defence. Chances came few and far between for the home side beyond that point.
None of the teams had a shot on target till the 70th minute, and it was Arsenal, who registered the first on-target attempt of the match.
Kieran Tierney burst forward and sent a cross towards Saka.
The England international did not have the best of first touches and gave Alisson Becker time to close him down and neutralise his second attempt.
Liverpool had to wait till stoppage time for their first on-target shot when Curtis Jones forced a shot out of Ramsdale.
Minamino missed a glaring chance to score in the final seconds, but the winger could not keep his shot on target.
The teams will meet in the second-leg of the tie at the Emirates on January 20th.