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Arsenal 3 Liverpool 1: Gunners prove they’re well in title race as Alisson blunders seal win over 10-man Liverpool

ON A wild afternoon at the Emirates, Arsenal blew a bloody great hole in the centre of Jurgen Klopp’s defence and declared a three-horse title.

First Virgil Van Dijk’s extraordinary mix-up with keeper Alisson gifted the decisive goal to Gabriel Martinelli, then Ibrahima Konate was sent off for two fouls on Kai Havertz as Liverpool’s 22-match unbeaten domestic run was ended.

Gabriel Martinelli tapped into an empty net after putting Arsenal back in front

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Gabriel Martinelli tapped into an empty net after putting Arsenal back in frontCredit: Reuters
The Brazilian pounced on a huge blunder from Alisson and Virgil van Dijk

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The Brazilian pounced on a huge blunder from Alisson and Virgil van DijkCredit: AP

The Gunners, who dominated the match for long stretches, are now just two points behind Klopp’s leaders.

And champions Manchester City – third but with two games in hand – could go top before Liverpool next play. 

There is something about the chaos of Premier League football which can make mugs of even the greatest defenders.

And here, two of the very best – William Saliba and Van Dijk – were guilty of shocking errors.

After Bukayo Saka had fired Arsenal into an early lead, Arteta’s side pressed self-destruct as Saliba’s blunder led to a Gabriel Marguelhes own goal in first-half injury-time. 

But Arsenal rallied as Martinelli capitalised on a major misjudgment from Van Dijk and a kamikaze dash from Alisson to score.

And after Konate’s late dismissal, Leandro Trossard secured Arsenal’s third straight win to propel them right back into the title picture.

Sensing the importance of this match, Arteta’s behaviour was even more frenzied than usual – he was dashing out of his technical area to play ball-boy at throw-ins and screaming at fourth official Craig Pawson over minor decisions.

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Saka should have opened the scoring a couple of minutes before he did.

A long throw from David Raya sent Gabriel Martinelli tearing down the left but when he crossed Saka skewed his diving header off target.

The England winger did not have to wait long, though.

Martin Odegaard’s cute pass released Kai Havertz, who dithered and saw his shot parried by an on-rushing Alisson, with Saka on hand to snap up the rebound.

Arsenal survived a VAR check for offside and the Emirates went ballistic.

Joe Gomez was booked for hauling back Havertz after Declan Rice won possession to start another counter and Liverpool were looking rattled.

Ben White was booked for time-wasting while prevaricating over a free-kick after just half an hour.

But the idea that Arsenal were trying to slow the game down was ludicrous.

Martinelli was operating at light speed, Rice was a Tasmanian Devil in midfield, Odegaard celebrating winning a throw-in as most men would celebrate a lottery jackpot.

Liverpool were struggling to keep their heads above water. Luis Diaz, who’d been chucking himself to the floor throughout most of the first half was lucky to escape with a petulant late challenge on Ben White.

But Klopp’s side had been dominated in the first half of the FA Cup tie here last month, yet still went on to win. It felt as if Arsenal needed a second while they held their stranglehold.

And in first-half injury-time, they blew it.

From a Ryan Gravenberch through-ball, Saliba thought he had successfully shepherded the ball back to Raya, only for Diaz to stick in a toe and deflect it in off a scrambling Gabriel.

Bukayo Saka kept his composure to fire Arsenal in front

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Bukayo Saka kept his composure to fire Arsenal in frontCredit: Reuters
Gabriel accidentally knocked the ball into his own net with his hand

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Gabriel accidentally knocked the ball into his own net with his handCredit: AFP
Leandro Trossard sealed the three points in injury time

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Leandro Trossard sealed the three points in injury timeCredit: Reuters
Mikel Arteta roared in delight

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Mikel Arteta roared in delightCredit: Reuters

It was a shambolic way to toss away such a richly-deserved lead.

At half-time, the shots on target count read 4-0 to the Arsenal, the scoreline 1-1.

Arteta sent on Jakub Kiwior in place of Oleksandr Zinchenko at the break.

But Liverpool started the second half with a spring in their step, pinning Arsenal back, and Curtis Jones curling a shot narrowly wide of the far post.

Arsenal rallied and an Odegaard shot almost deflected in off Konate, who was soon booked for holding back Havertz.

Klopp, his bench better stocked than of late, sent for the cavalry – Darwin Nunez, Andy Robertson and Harvey Elliott.

Havertz was tripped in the area by Alexis Mac Allister but Anthony Taylor said no and his mate in Stockley Park, David Coote, refused to over-rule.

Presumably, VAR are doing the ‘clear and obvious thing’ this week. Most weeks, they don’t and the spot-kick would have been given.

Still, it didn’t matter for long as Arsenal seized the lead again thanks to an extraordinary mix-up between Alisson and Van Dijk, both GOATs of their trade if you listen to Liverpool supporters.

Gabriel hoofed forward and Van Dijk was too casual in trying to shield the ball from Martinelli, as Alisson dashed off his line, missed his kick and presented the Brazilian with a tap-in.  

Martinelli looked stunned to be hooked in favour of Leandro Trossard, a strange substitution from Arteta, made to look even worse when Saka went down injured and had to be replaced by Reiss Nelson.

Kiwior, somehow in a centre-forward position headed straight at Alisson when he could have killed the game and Nunez blazed wildly wide when he ought to have crossed.

Konate received his second yellow for a body check on Havertz in the 88th minute and Arteta’s men were home and hosed.

In injury-time, Trossard kippered Elliott, charged down the left and saw his shot deflect off Van Dijk to nutmeg Alisson and seal the deal.

Ibrahima Konate saw red for two yellow cards

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Ibrahima Konate saw red for two yellow cardsCredit: AFP
Bukayo Saka limped off in an injury scare

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Bukayo Saka limped off in an injury scareCredit: PA
The defeat could be a crucial result in the title race

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The defeat could be a crucial result in the title raceCredit: PA
Captain Martin Odegaard was desperate to capture the moment

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Captain Martin Odegaard was desperate to capture the momentCredit: Reuters

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