Liverpool 1 v Arsenal 1

Arsenal’s incessant pressure finally paid off at with a 1-1 draw at Anfield in a game that saw both sides reduced to ten men. Reds’ debutant Joe Cole was given his marching orders on the stroke of half time after clattering into Arsenal debutant Laurent Koscielny. It was then the new Arsenal defender who harshly saw two yellow cards in quick succession late in the second half that evened things up, but the game will wrongly be remembered for the controversial decisions of referee Martin Atkinson, who did not yellow card David Ngog for an earlier and deliberate handball. Quite how Steven Gerrard remained on the pitch too will remain a mystery.


Gerrard lunged into Emmanuel Eboue, a challenge that warranted a first half yellow card, and when he lunged into Marouane Chamakh, the Liverpool captain too should have been given his marching orders. This will add further weight to the controversy over how Gerrard appears to be treated leniently compared to other players in the Premiership. It was Ngog who gave Liverpool the lead barely a minute into the second half. Arsenal who had looked composed and comfortable, but without really creating any genuine opening suffered a defensive lapse let in Javier Mascherano, who slipped in Ngog from a very acute angle.


Manuel Almunia has been under pressure with talk surrounding the imminent arrival of Mark Schwarzer from Fulham, and as he attempted to cover the ball, he failed to save at his near post from Ngog. The case for the Aussie stopper has become even louder – it was a poor mistake from Almunia, who did however force an Glenn Johnson shot over the crossbar mid-way through the first half.


Still with their neat intricate passing and superior numbers at that stage Arsenal seemed confident of levelling and especially with their superior possession. Liverpool who earlier saw Gael Clichy clear Ngog’s header off the line seemed content to sit back with two banks of four to soak up the Gunners’ second half pressure and try to hit on the counter-attack. In the absence of Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri was tasked with the mid-field general role, but whenever Arsenal threatened the Reds’ defence, they came up against a solid wall led by the thrusting Jamie Carragher.


Marouane Chamakh had endured a relatively quiet opening, unlike Koscielny who is proving to be another rock alongside Thomas Vermaelen. Liverpool introduced Fernando Torres and his duel with Koscielny, proved what a good signing Wenger has made as the France defender held firm on more than one occasion. Arsene Wenger brought on Theo Walcott and Tomas Rosicky as the Gunners went in search of width.


Four minutes before the end, Rosicky crafted an opening, which was sailing into the Liverpool goal, until Reina’s fingers pushed the ball over the crossbar. Inside the last gasp moments of the game, Rosicky sent over a cross that Chamakh rose to head. Reina missed the ball, but it hit the post and off the Spain ‘keeper to nestle into the Liverpool net. Liverpool then discovered a hitherto missing desire to attack for the five minutes of time added on, Steve Gerrard saw Almunia parry a goal bound free-kick, as honours were to remain even in a dramatic season opener on Merseyside.