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Reds dig deep to get some cheer


Liverpool's Martin Skrtel (2nd L) scores a goal against Arsenal

Liverpool's Martin Skrtel (2nd L) scores a goal against Arsenal

Liverpool's Martin Skrtel (2nd L) scores a goal against Arsenal

Liverpool dug deep into their reserves of resilience as Martin Skrtel scored the equaliser deep into stoppage time to ensure another good performance did not go to waste.

A week after failing to take a host of chances in the defeat at Old Trafford it seemed a pattern was emerging after Arsenal recovered from Philippe Coutinho's opener to lead with goals from Mathieu Debuchy and Olivier Giroud.

The dismissal of substitute Fabio Borini in the second of nine minutes of stoppage time - directly as a result of a head injury to Skrtel - appeared to have put paid to the Reds' chances only for the Slovakia international to power home a header, thus forcing a 2-2 draw.

The goal was celebrated like a winner and who knows how pivotal it may turn out to be in the context of a season in which inconsistency has been the only consistent factor for the Merseysiders.


Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers was pleased by a return to the up-tempo game they performed so thrillingly last season, and believes the resilience coupled with it shows things are turning around.

"It says everything. Slowly we are getting back to where we want to get to," he said. "That is one defeat in eight. Our performance today was outstanding: the passing and intensity and the pressing in our game is starting to return so we are disappointed with the goals we conceded, especially at the end of the first half.

"But the character and the quality of the team was very good. We have played better and dominated more than we did last year when we won 5-1 (in March). I think that tells you everything about the performance.

"We conceded only three shots on target to one of the top teams in European football at keeping the ball and, very importantly for me, I see our our idea starting to return again.

"In the second half of last season we went on a run of 11 wins. If we can put a run together that can quickly move you up. The most important thing is the confidence and align that with bringing back (Daniel) Sturridge in January and we can get back to being that team we have been. There is a bit of work to do but at least we are moving in the right direction."

Rodgers hailed Skrtel, who had eight staples in a head wound inflicted by Giroud's boot. "He is a strong character, a real warrior, and thankfully he stayed on and scored a great header," he added.

It may not have been the devastating first 20 minutes seen at Anfield back in March when a stunned Gunners found themselves 4-0 down but the first half was probably as well as Liverpool had played all season.

The old fast-paced pressing and tempo had returned led by the unlikely figures of Lazar Markovic and Coutinho.

Adam Lallana, whose movement provided the link between midfield and attack, and Markovic both had chances as Liverpool's dominance of possession continued to produce opportunities.

Some of the pre-match billing had centred around comparisons between Alexis Sanchez, the striker Liverpool wanted as a Luis Suarez replacement in the summer, and Raheem Sterling, the man currently being asked to deputise in the injured Daniel Sturridge's absence, but neither had much impact in the first half.

Sanchez, scorer of 14 goals this season, was virtually anonymous but his most significant contribution came when he won and then took the free-kick which led to Arsenal's equaliser with virtually the last touch of the half.

Liverpool had just gone ahead through Coutinho's second goal of the season, a richly-deserved effort for both the team and individual. Giroud gave the ball away to Jordan Henderson who picked out his Brazilian team-mate on the edge of the area and he shifted the ball onto his right foot before firing in off the far post.

That appeared to be that but in added time Debuchy outjumped Skrtel after Per Mertesacker and Mathieu Flamini, fortunate not to escape a second yellow card for catching Lallana in the face, both won headers from Sanchez's free-kick.

The delay for a nasty cut to Skrtel's head affected the flow of play early in the second half but while Liverpool were missing their chances there was nothing wrong with Arsenal's cutting edge and from a counter-attack down their left Giroud exchanged passes with Santi Cazorla to guide a first-time shot through the legs of Brad Jones.

Two efforts on target, two goals scored. It appeared to be a classic snatch-and-grab from Arsenal.

Borini's second yellow card for a high challenge on Cazorla, having already been booked for throwing the ball away, just added further insult. But with two minutes of the additional time remaining Skrtel powered home Lallana's corner.