Joe Allen’s last-gasp equalizer earned Liverpool a thrilling 3-3 draw with Arsenal as the Premier League leaders wasted a chance to consolidate pole position at Anfield on Wednesday. Arsene Wenger’s side twice come from behind to take a second half lead but, in the dying seconds, Jordan Henderson’s long punt was headed down by substitute Christian Benteke and fellow replacement Allen volleyed home a deserved equalizer.
Earlier, Roberto Firmino had also scored twice for Jurgen Klopp’s team, his first home goals, only for Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud to quickly respond in a remarkable opening 25 minutes. Giroud’s second goal put Arsenal, attempting to move closer to their first title since 2004, 3-2 ahead, but Allen left them frustrated with his late intervention.
The Gunners are now top only on goal difference from second placed Leicester, who won at Tottenham to boost their surprise challenge.
Klopp, who left Benteke out of his starting line-up and played with Firmino as a false nine, saw his team make a committed opening to the game and take the lead after just nine minutes. James Milner set up Emre Can for a shot from the edge of the Arsenal area which goalkeeper Petr Cech could only parry into the path of the Brazilian forward, who took a tidy controlling touch and deposited the ball into the net from 12 yards.
It should have been just the psychological boost Klopp’s team needed. But that lead would last just three minutes before a weak clearance from Kolo Toure only found Joel Campbell, whose excellent through ball presented Ramsey (right) with the opportunity to beat Simon Mignolet at his near post. It was yet another goal that raised question marks about Liverpool’s goalkeeper and defense but, on this occasion at least, there was little lacking from their attacking play.
Only 19 minutes had elapsed when Firmino restored the lead as Arsenal showed their own defensive uncertainty. Per Mertesacker cleared unconvincingly and Milner touched the ball to Firmino, who placed an unstoppable right-foot shot into the top corner from just outside the area.
– Drama –
Yet, while both managers would have been furious with aspects of their teams’ defensive efforts, there was little to complain about the attacking fare on display as Arsenal regained control of proceedings.
Mamadou Sakho conceded a corner with a superb goal line clearance that denied Ramsey’s six-yard chip after another excellent through ball from Campbell.
Ramsey’s corner created the problems for the Reds at the near-post with Giroud (right) ghosting in front of his marker Sakho, and putting a decisive touch past Mignolet via a deflection from the goalkeeper’s legs.
It was rapidly turning into one of the games of the Premier League season and more drama was to follow just three minutes later when a sublime Arsenal move — Campbell to Theo Walcott for a low cross into the six-yard area — ended with the unmarked Giroud sliding in towards an open net and somehow steering the ball backwards away from goal.
After dangerous Firmino cross was well saved by Cech, Walcott had a promising shot deflected behind, and man of the half Firmino had a magnificent shot from Jordan Ibe’s cross strike the bar. The frantic attacking pace did not let up after the restart and, within a minute, Campbell for Arsenal and Alberto Moreno for the home side had volleyed over at the far post.
And, after 54 minutes, the visitors led for the first time as Giroud claimed his second goal of the night. Hector Bellerin surged down the right, pulled the ball back to Campbell and his perfect pass allowed Giroud to turn swiftly on the penalty spot and score with a perfect finish.
Klopp brought on Benteke to add a different attacking dimension. It had the desired effect as a Moreno shot, Firmino header and shot from the substitute himself all threatened before Allen netted in the 90th minute.