Liverpool, England – Arsenal held out for over an hour with a man down to leave its League Cup semifinal with Liverpool in a delicate position after a 0-0 tie in the first leg at Anfield on Thursday.
The Gunners looked set to pay the price after former captain Granit Xhaka was sent off for chopping down Diogo Jota after just 24 minutes.
Liverpool, however, sorely missed the firepower of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, laboring to even create chances against a 10-man squad.
“We rebel against the situation,” Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said. “The players showed great fight, determination, brotherhood. You saw the emotion, we never gave up.”
Chelsea is already awaiting the winner at Wembley Stadium next month. The first leg was originally scheduled to be played at Emirates Stadium last week, but was called off due to a coronavirus outbreak among the Liverpool squad.
The Reds were missing Salah and Mane due to their international duties at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Liverpool had a clean bill of health otherwise and manager Jurgen Klopp named the strongest side available to him.
The home side had the better of a cagey opening quarter, with Ben White’s miscued clearance from Takumi Minamino’s cross skewing just wide. That was the closest either side came to scoring before the red card.
Xhaka has been a key player for Arteta despite his disciplinary issues. But he will miss Sunday’s north London derby against Tottenham and the second leg next Thursday after being sent off for the second time this season.
Jota was played through on goal by Andy Robertson’s pinpoint long ball, and the Portuguese was brought down by a lunging Xhaka
“We would’ve preferred to have scored the goal instead of them getting a red card,” Klopp said.
“From that moment, it looks like we are under pressure.
“But it’s a two-legged game and it’s halftime. I can’t remember when it was 0-0 at halftime, wherever I’ve been, and I thought ‘we have no chance.’ We will give it a proper go.”
Arteta responded to the red card by sacrificing Eddie Nketiah for an extra center back in Rob Holding and the visitors’ back five held up well despite Liverpool dominating possession.
“I don’t know if the red card inspired them but it took the fight,” Arteta added.
“You need a certain attitude to play in these games and the boys did that.”
Minamino had the two clear chances Liverpool did create in the second half.
The first was a shot that sailed wide from a narrow angle.
Moments later, a rare Arsenal foray forward nearly resulted in the winner as Kieran Tierney picked out Bukayo Saka, but he could not beat Alisson Becker from close range.
There was further concern for Arteta when Saka limped off in the final stages.
All of Arsenal’s good work was nearly undone at the death, as Aaron Ramsdale flapped at a cross, but Minamino sliced his shot high and wide with the goal open to leave everything on the table in the second leg in Jan. 20.
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