By Rob Kelly
We kept our European hopes alive with a morale-boosting victory against Liverpool on Wednesday night.
Coming into a game against the champions off the back of a north London derby defeat was hardly ideal preparation, but we delivered a gritty, backs-to-the-wall performance to claim the points after goals from Alex Lacazette and Reiss Nelson.
With Saturday’s Emirates FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City looming large, Mikel Arteta made five changes to his side but it was the visitors who dominated much of the first half.
Playing with the swagger of the Premier League’s top dogs, Liverpool pushed us back in our own half for long periods and it came as little surprise when they took the lead through Sadio Mane’s close-range finish.
But for all their dominance, the visitors could not extend their advantage and we made them pay the price when Lacazette took advantage of a Virgil van Dijk error to score.
We then benefitted from another Liverpool mistake when Allison played a pass straight to Lacazette, who found Nelson to slot home his first Premier League goal.
We would have expected a response from the Reds after the interval, and we got one with Emi Martinez soon called into action to make a close-range save from Mohamed Saleh.
Liverpool continued to pile on the pressure, but for all their possession we were standing firm and making life difficult for them as the game reached its closing stages.
Mane had the best chance for the visitors late on when he got goal side of Ainsley Maitlan-Niles but poked his shot wide, while Joe Wilock had a very late opportunity but sliced wide from close range.
That was that, and we claimed a welcome three points. On to Wembley next.
HOW IT HAPPENED
WHAT IT MEANS
We’re off to Wembley on Saturday evening to take on Manchester City in the Emirates FA Cup semi-final, with kick off at 7.45pm (UK time).
We last faced them in the competition at the same stage back in 2017, when we came from a goal down to snatch a late win thanks to Nacho Monreal and Alexis Sanchez' goals.
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