Liverpool holds high-flying Arsenal away, stays unbeaten in Premier League

Liverpool midfielder James Milner celebrates his goal during Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Arsenal. (Reuters/Matthew Childs)
Liverpool midfielder James Milner celebrates his goal during Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Arsenal. (Reuters/Matthew Childs)

Streaking English titans Arsenal and Liverpool produced one of the most riveting games of the Premier League season when they met in London on Saturday, so perhaps it was fitting that both teams respective unbeaten streaks remained intact following the 1-1 tie.

Liverpool opened the scoring in the back-and-forth affair, going ahead on the hour when Sadio Mane got behind Arsenal’s back line and fired a centering pass across the face of goal that keeper Bernd Leno misplayed. The ball eventually fell to Reds veteran James Milner, who blasted the Reds in front with his right foot:

It was penalty-specialist Milner’s first goal from open play in almost three years, and it looked like it might be enough to give the visitors all three points along with their best start to a Premier League season. But Arsenal’s domination of the ball — the Gunners ended up with 62-percent of the possession — eventually paid off when Alexandre Lacazette finished off a beautiful individual effort to salvage a deserved point for the hosts with less than nine minutes left in the match:

Liverpool still has the look of a title contender

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp surely rued the two dropped points, and he should. If not for an officiating error, the Reds could well have left Emirates Stadium with all three. (More on that below)

But the fact is that Klopp and Co. continue to look like a legitimate contender to win Liverpool’s first English title in 29 years. They came into the match tied atop the Premier League with defending champs Manchester City on the strength of an identical 8W-0L-2T record.

And they gave as good as they got against an Arsenal team that recently won 11 straight games across all competitions, and was still riding a run of seven consecutive victories at home. The Reds now occupy the table’s top spot alone, although that might be short lived. City hosts relegation candidate Southampton on Sunday.

Missed opportunity for Arsenal

Gunners boss Unai Emery is probably kicking himself, too, for squandering the chance to celebrate his 47th birthday with a win. Arsenal put Liverpool under pressure immediately, with Lacazette forcing a good save from Reds goalkeeper Alisson inside three minutes. Liverpool’s back line was breached again in short order, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s shot deflected wide by Joe Gomez’s desperate sliding tackle.

The Gunners continued to have the better of the play throughout the contest, even if the visitors had more than a few moments of their own. The two teams produced 16 first-half shots between them in an end-to-end opening 45 minutes.

The beginning of the second half was more of the same, with Arsenal dominating the ball and Liverpool being forced to absorb pressure and look for opportunities to counter-attack. But the home side couldn’t find the opening goal they were after, and were punished for it on the other end.

Premier League’s VAR controversy continues

Mane appeared to have put the Reds ahead in the 18th minute, but the play was called back offside. However, replays later showed that while Mane was in an offside position on the initial pass that led to Roberto Firmino’s shot off the post, Mane wasn’t involved in the sequence. And he was clearly onside when Firmino shot the ball, as he was when he knocked the rebound home for what should’ve been the first goal of the match. Who knows how the match would’ve turned out had the mistake been corrected?

Instead, it provided another high-profile example of how the Premier League’s reluctance to introduce video-assisted referees, or VAR, this season is hurting its product.

Doug McIntyre covers soccer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.

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