Never in doubt.
Having won our last three games in the capital (at Palace, Spurs and West Ham) and with a success at Molineux in our last game before the international break, hopes were high that the Reds could get the three points and close the gap on Chelsea in fourth place, especially after the Chavs’ hilarious 2-5 defeat at home to West Brom earlier today.
Two changes for the Tricky Reds in the end, with Bobby replacing Jota up front and Milner coming in for Wijnaldum. While the latter made sense, given that Gini had played 259 of the 270 available minutes on international duty for the Netherlands this week, it was (to me, at least) a real surprise to see Diogo dropped, especially given Bobby’s woeful recent form.
Arsenal were commemorating the twentieth anniversary of the death of their former midfielder David Rocastle, who succumbed to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma on 31st March 2001. I well remember “Rocky” and he was a class act, both on and off the pitch. Can’t believe that it’s already two decades since he passed.
A pretty dreary opening ten minutes, with Sadio opting to pass to Firmino instead of shooting after turning Holding and bursting through on goal, ended with Milner dragging a snapshot about five yards wide. Fabinho shot wide a couple of minutes later; the visitors were on the front foot.
Liverpool dominated possession without creating any clear-cut chances. Sadio headed tamely straight at Leno in the 27th minute; Firmino drilled narrowly wide on the half hour mark.
At the other end, Arsenal’s first meaningful attack came in the 33rd minute and ended with Pepe heading very tamely straight into Alisson’s hands. Aubamayang was offside in the build up, anyway.
Trent burst clear down the right and rolled the ball back to Milner, who was unmarked on the edge of the box, but the veteran’s shot curled narrowly wide. As we entered stoppage time, Tierney limped off and was replaced by Cedric.
As the players trudged off for their halftime oranges, it was a mystery exactly how the Reds hadn’t taken the lead. Poor decision making in the final third and errant finishing; same old same old, as it has been for much of the last few months.
The second stanza started with Trent finding Mo level with the penalty spot but the ball just rolled away from the Egyptian and Arsenal were able to clear.
Robbo was finally given a rest on the hour mark; Jota came on to join the front three and Milner dropped into the left back slot. Cedric tried to curl one into the far corner but our moustachioed Brazilian saved easily.
A few minutes later, Trent swung in a peach of a cross from the right and Jota stole in between the Holding and Chambers to head powerfully past Leno. 1-0 to the good guys.
Four minutes later, the visitors doubled their lead. Fabinho lifted the ball over Gabriel and Mo was into it in a flash, holding off the defender and then coolly slotting the ball between Leno’s legs. It was Mo’s 93rd goal in 150 Premier League appearances.
Five minutes later, Mo was in again as Bobby played it through, but our Egyptian shot straight at Leno this time. It should really have been three. Gini replaced Bobby with twelve minutes remaining and almost got straight in on the act, but his shot from eighteen yards was saved comfortably.
Still, the Reds didn’t have to wait much longer for their next goal. Gabriel’s poor clearance was intercepted by Trent, who fed Salah. The Egyptian rolled the ball to Sadio, whose turn inadvertently teed up Jota. The Portuguese forward swept home with aplomb, pinching the ball off his teammate’s toes.
Kabak, who had been excellent when called upon, was given the last six minutes off and Rhys Williams was given a run out. The Tricky Reds saw the rest of the game out comfortably; Sadio just failed to connect with a Trent free kick and Mo almost capitalised on Ali’s long clearance near the end.
A good win, then; let’s hope that we can now get back on a roll and secure a top four spot as well as landing number seven in Istanbul.
Next up is a trip to Madrid to face Real in the Champions League quarter finals on Tuesday evening. I don’t think anybody needs an introduction to that clash! Let’s just say that revenge is a dish best served cold.
MOTM: speaking of cold dishes, I’m going to nominate those good people at Monty’s Deli in London. Their pastrami and salt beef Reubens sandwiches are legendary; since lockdown, I’ve been ordering their sandwich kits at home, which include their own bread, sauerkraut and sauces as well as the meat, and they are brilliant. Washed down with a can of Dr Brown’s Black Cherry soda, it’s as good a homemade packed lunch as you’re likely to find anywhere.