Liverpool frustrated by Arsenal in first leg despite early Granit Xhaka red card and return of big names
EFL Cup semi-final first leg, Anfield – Liverpool 0 Arsenal 0
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 13: Takumi Minamino and Roberto Firmino of Liverpool look on after the final whistle in the Carabao Cup Semi Final First Leg match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield on January 13, 2022 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by M
Despite naming his strongest side possible, Jurgen Klopp couldn't mastermind a win in Liverpool's rearranged League Cup semi-final with Arsenal.
In a game that saw Granit Xhaka sent off for hauling down Diogo Jota, the Reds struggled to break down the ten men of North London, who defended resolutely to ensure that the aggregate score line of this cup tie remained goalless before the reverse fixture at the Emirates next week.
Liverpool dominated proceedings, as one would expect with a man advantage. However, they never really carved out the opportunity to really bare their teeth, as the absence of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane in that electric front three was evident.
Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson were instrumental in most of the hosts' approach play, but the right-back was sacrificed in the last quarter of an hour as he continues his recovery from COVID-19.
It was a game of few chances for either side really; Bukayo Saka came closest for Arsenal as Alisson Becker smothered an opportunity at his feet after a good burst from left-back Kieran Tierney.
Ben White made a crucial interception on an Andy Robertson cross that looked like it would be turned goalward by Roberto Firmino, and Takumi Minamino dragged a shot wide of Aaron Ramsdale's far post as the hosts kept knocking on the door.
Minamino skied an open goal opportunity right at the last with the net at his mercy, but as the ball landed high in the Kop, it just summed the Reds' performance up.
But nothing would materialise for them; Arsenal held firm in their back five shape, and escape from Anfield with a goalless draw.
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 13: Granit Xhaka of Arsenal is awarded a red card during the Carabao Cup Semi Final First Leg match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield on January 13, 2022 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Im
Image credit: Getty Images
TALKING POINT - LACKLUSTRE LIVERPOOL, ADMIRABLE ARSENAL
When you've fielded your strongest 11 available, you should really be beating a side who have been forced to play an hour of football with ten men.
But Arteta's side were stubborn; brilliant in their defensive work and sturdy in their structure to eke out the draw, frustrating the home supporters who groaned their frustrations at the full time whistle.
Minamino's late miss was the epitome of the performance - toothless - but the Gunners held on for that vital clean sheet that sets up the one-legged shootout at the Emirates next week.
MAN OF THE MATCH - BEN WHITE, ARSENAL
Showed exactly why they spent big on him in the summer.
A rock at the back and still confident on the ball when pressed heavily, the former Brighton defender stood up to the task and showed his qualities, producing a key block and interception in either half to keep his side's sheet clean.
He was aided by Rob Holding and Calum Chambers aerially, but that shouldn't take away from the performance from this man, who really shut his critics up in one of the hottest cauldrons around.
Liverpool: Alisson 6, A-Arnold 7, Matip 6, van Dijk 7, Robertson 6, Fabinho 6, Henderson 6, Milner 5, Minamino 6, Firmino 7, Jota 6, Jones 7, Chamberlain 6, Gomez 6, Williams 6.
Arsenal: Ramsdale 5, Cedric 5, White 8*, Gabriel 7, Tierney 7, Xhaka 4, Lokonga 7, Lacazette 7, Martinelli 6, Saka 7, Nketiah 6, Chambers 6, Holding 6, Tavares 6.
13': SO CLOSE! Minamino's cross from the left...Firmino! The ball just dribbles wide of the far post as Ben White makes a crucial interception.
23': RED CARD! Granit Xhaka is adjudged to have been the last man and denied a goalscoring opportunity as he hauls Jota down under the high ball with a high foot, but Michael Oliver does not mess about and produces the red. Arsenal down to ten.
72': CLOSE FOR ARSENAL! Saka is unfortunate after a great ball and dart from Tierney, and Alisson smothers him!
90': OPEN GOAL OPPORTUNITY!!! Minamino skies an open goal opportunity at the death as Ramsdale comes charging out of his goal, and he snatched the effort, firing high into the Kop.
90': MORE URGENCY! Liverpool banging on the door as a driven Williams shot is cleared by Ben White. Robertson tries to rally the Kop as Liverpool come again.