Liverpool 0-0 Arsenal: Gunners hold firm despite Xhaka red as Minamino misses late sitter

By Sports Desk January 13, 2022

Takumi Minamino squandered a golden chance for Liverpool as 10-man Arsenal defended resolutely despite to draw 0-0 draw in the first leg of their EFL Cup semi-final.

The Anfield fixture had initially been scheduled as the second leg, but last week's match was postponed due to a number of coronavirus cases within Liverpool's squad.

Arsenal were thrashed 4-0 in their previous trip to the ground in November but a depleted Gunners side ensured the second leg will start on level terms following a stoic display, which was complicated by Granit Xhaka's 24th-minute red card.

Missing Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane due to the Africa Cup of Nations, Liverpool toiled in front of a packed Arsenal defence and when a golden chance did finally come, Minamino fluffed his lines.

Already shorn of the injured Emile Smith Rowe and Martin Odegaard, who had tested positive for COVID-19, Arsenal were dealt another blow when Cedric Soares limped off in the 11th minute.

The visitors would surely have been behind if not for Ben White's intervention, with the defender just managing to deny Roberto Firmino a tap-in.

Though they weathered an early storm, Arsenal's task was made harder when Xhaka received his marching orders for a desperate, high swipe at Diogo Jota just outside the Gunners' area.

Minamino, Liverpool's hero from the quarter-final win over Leicester City, almost caught out Aaron Ramsdale early in the second half with a long-range cross-shot that dropped just wide.

Alisson had to be alert to thwart Bukayo Saka at the other end in a rare Arsenal attack, but Minamino should have won it late on.

Ramsdale flapped at a cross and left his goal gaping, yet Minamino's first-time effort flew high over the crossbar.

What does it mean? Reds attack blunted

Liverpool are not the only team dealing with the loss of key players due to AFCON – Arsenal were missing midfielder Thomas Partey – but without Salah and Mane, Jurgen Klopp's side lacked the cutting edge to turn their dominance into goals, whose only shot on target came in stoppage time.

Mikel Arteta will have been thrilled with the grit his depleted team showed throughout, and will now be looking to make home advantage count in the second leg, though he will be without Xhaka, while Saka joined Cedric in trudging off with an injury issue late on.

White takes charge

With Arsenal going to a back five following Xhaka's dismissal, White proved a commanding figure at the back, having by that point already denied Liverpool a certain opener.

The England international made three tackles, three blocks and as many interceptions, all team-highs, while he also contributed five clearances, including one just in front of the line in injury time.

New year, same old Xhaka

Oh, Granit, it was all so predictable. The Arsenal midfielder was beaten for pace by Jota, who latched onto Andrew Robertson's brilliant diagonal, and in a desperate bid to deny the Liverpool forward a one-v-one with Ramsdale, he lashed out and caught the Portugal international in the stomach.

Xhaka, who had just nine touches in his 24 minutes on the pitch, has now been sent off five times in all competitions since his Arsenal debut in 2016-17. That number may seem surprisingly low, given his tendency to dive in rashly, but it is still more than any other Premier League player.

What's next?

Both teams are back in Premier League action on Sunday, with Liverpool hosting Brentford and Arsenal taking on north London rivals Tottenham prior to next week's second leg.

Related items

  • Paris Saint-Germain confirm Di Maria departure Paris Saint-Germain confirm Di Maria departure

    Paris Saint-Germain have confirmed Angel Di Maria will leave the club upon the expiration of his contract. 

    Di Maria joined PSG from Manchester United in 2015 and has gone on to enjoy a stellar stint in the French capital. 

    The former Real Madrid winger has won five Ligue 1 titles, enjoyed as many Coupe de France triumphs and collected four Coupe de la Ligue trophies. 

    He has not been able to help PSG win the Champions League, though he did get a runners-up medal in 2019-20. 

    Di Maria, who scored in a 4-0 rout of Montpellier last week, contributed to 40 goals in his first season at PSG, scoring 15 and providing 25 assists. 

    In the 2021 Coupe de France final, his pass for a Kylian Mbappe goal saw Di Maria become the player with the most assists in PSG's history (104). 

    He has assisted 71 goals in Ligue 1 since his debut in 2015, 27 more than any other PSG player in that time frame, and created 482 chances – way clear of second-ranked Neymar's tally of 267. His 55 goals place him fourth, behind Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Mbappe. 

    Lionel Messi's arrival last year limited Di Maria's minutes, with the Argentine featuring 30 times across all competitions in the 2021-22 campaign and starting 21 of those games. 

    On Friday, ahead of PSG's final game of the season against Metz, Di Maria posted a picture of the squad to his official Instagram account with the message: "Gracias. Merci." 

    "Angel Di Maria has definitely marked the history of the club," said PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi. 

    "He will be remembered by supporters as a player of impeccable spirit, who showed unwavering commitment to defending our colours.  

    "I invite the whole Paris Saint-Germain family to meet [Saturday] at the Parc des Princes to pay him the tribute he deserves." 

    Reports have suggested that Juventus have lined up a move for Di Maria, who turned 34 in February. 

  • Real Madrid 0-0 Real Betis: Blancos finish triumphant LaLiga season with sedate draw Real Madrid 0-0 Real Betis: Blancos finish triumphant LaLiga season with sedate draw

    Real Madrid closed out their title-winning LaLiga campaign with a low-key 0-0 draw against Real Betis at the Santiago Bernabeu on Friday. 

    Neither team had anything to play for and that was clear from the outset, with the match played at a sedate tempo as Madrid looked to avoid overexerting themselves ahead of next weekend's Champions League final against Liverpool. 

    Carlo Ancelotti named a strong line-up for the match but Los Blancos remain winless and goalless in five home league games against Betis. 

    Marcelo and Isco were sent on for their final appearances at the Bernabeu but it was not to be a triumphant farewell as Betis held on for a draw. 

    Toni Kroos fired wide after Karim Benzema's shot was blocked and Willian Jose narrowly missed the target from 20 yards after an open start to the half. 

    Decent openings were few and far between, but Casemiro rifled a low drive just outside the post on the stroke of half-time after charging through the middle. 

    Benzema volleyed straight at Rui Silva seven minutes after the restart and Rodrygo sent his follow-up wide under pressure from Marc Bartra. 

    Joaquin came off the bench in the 74th minute for his 600th LaLiga appearance, joining Andoni Zubizarreta (622) as the only players to reach the milestone. 

    The 40-year-old winger was unable to mark the occasion with a goal as he lifted an effort from the edge of the six-yard box over with three minutes remaining, but the point was enough for Betis to clinch fifth place.

  • Barcelona not in a position to sign Lewandowski, insists LaLiga president Tebas Barcelona not in a position to sign Lewandowski, insists LaLiga president Tebas

    Barcelona are not in a position to finance a deal for Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski, according to LaLiga president Javier Tebas.

    Lewandowski last week confirmed that he has informed Bayern he will not be extending his contract beyond the end of next season.

    The Poland international hinted he is interested in a move away from the Allianz Arena in the upcoming transfer window, rather than departing as a free agent in a year's time.

    Barca are the favourites to land Europe's most prolific striker, with head coach Xavi insisting age would not be a barrier when it comes to his rebuild project.

    However, uncertainty lingers over whether Barca have the financial clout to make a move as they attempt to come through an economic crisis that has hit Camp Nou hard.

    And unless certain players, such as midfielder Frenkie de Jong, are sold to bring in additional funds, Tebas does not see the Lewandowski transfer being a possibility.

    "The numbers are easy: if you have more than €500million losses from the past two years, you have to recover money," Tebas is quoted as saying by Spanish publication Sport.

    "Lewandowski has one year left at Bayern. Between what he wants to earn and what Bayern want to take... as of today I don't see him at Barcelona. Other things must happen.

    "Selling players could be enough, depending on how much they raise and what Lewandowski costs. It could be €100m plus that is saved.

    "De Jong could give them that possibility, but I don't know if they are even planning to sell. To date they have not sold him."

     

    Lewandowski has scored 50 goals in 46 games for Bayern in all competitions this season, making him the top scorer among players from Europe's top five leagues.

    Next on that list is Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema with 44, followed by Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe with 36 in 45 matches.

    Mbappe had been widely expected to join Benzema at Madrid next season, but reports on Friday suggested the forward might decide to stay at PSG.

    However, Tebas expects the France international to end up at the Santiago Bernabeu in the coming weeks.

    "I think he'll be at Real Madrid, though one day he is white and another day he is black – he changes," Tebas said. "But yes, I think [he'll sign for Madrid].

    ”I have seen these twists and turns so many times – it's not unexpected, because there are always twists. 

    "The feeling I have is that if he had wanted to renew he would have already done so, but I could be wrong."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.