By Chris Harris at Anfield
A solid second-half display was not enough to fix the damage done before the break as we slipped to defeat at Liverpool.
Roberto Firmino scored from close range and Sadio Mane rifled in a second to give us a mountain to climb.
Climb it we almost did, hitting back through a brilliantly-worked goal from Danny Welbeck and turning up the heat on Liverpool after a tepid first half.
But it wasn’t enough.
Seconds after Alexis had a shot blocked, Liverpool hit us on the break to add a third through Georginio Wijnaldum and leapfrog us in the Premier League.
SETTING THE SCENE
A 12-day break between fixtures? It was actually 17 days since most of our line-up at Anfield had been in action.
Arsene Wenger made eight changes to the side that won at Sutton in the FA Cup and sprung a surprise by leaving Alexis on the bench. Mesut Ozil was absent with an illness.
Olivier Giroud’s inclusion made plenty of sense against a side that has struggled to defend set-pieces, and you couldn’t argue with the Frenchman’s form against Liverpool.
He had five goals in his last seven Premier League games against the Merseysiders, including three in his last two at Anfield.
Liverpool started on the front foot but we had most dangerous early attack.
Giroud’s neat touch kicked off a break that ended with Oxlade-Chamberlain finding Hector Bellerin and the Spaniard standing a cross up to the far post, where Giroud was lurking. But Liverpool survived that, and then they thrived.
Mane made their first goal, making the most of space on the right to size up a cross for Philippe Coutinho.
The Brazilian missed his attempted flick but Firmino was the spare man at the back post. He took a touch to commit Petr Cech and lifted the ball into the roof of the net.
Frustratingly, it gave a Liverpool side the confidence they needed following a bad defeat at Leicester on Monday. Suddenly the hosts were bright and lively and threatening.
Coutinho forced a reflex save from Cech with a fierce left-foot shot and Liverpool got the two-goal cushion they wanted just before the break.
This time the move started on the left where James Milner attracted two markers and found Firmino. He spotted Mane in space on the right side of the box and an unerring finish from the Senegalese gave Cech no chance.
Coutinho could have made it three when he got the wrong side of Shkodran Mustafi but shot straight at Cech.
The last two times we’ve been two down away from home in the Premier League we’ve come back to get a point. And there were encouraging signs at the start of the second half.
Alexis, on for Francis Coquelin, gave Simon Mignolet something to do with a dangerous cross into the box. Then Giroud craned his neck to reach Nacho Monreal’s cross and get power behind a header that Mignolet did well to tip onto the bar.
It was so much better from us and, just before the hour mark, we got the goal we deserved.
Iwobi led a counter-attack, finding Oxlade-Chamberlain, who picked out Alexis. He bided his time before sliding a perfect through-ball into Welbeck’s path and his finish was sheer class - a first-time clip over Mignolet.
Mustafi slid in to clear from inside his own six-yard box after Coutinho threatened again, and then got forward himself to pick out Bellerin’s run in behind. His cut-back just eluded Giroud and Alexis.
This was some contest now.
Back came Liverpool. Coutinho flashed a shot over, Joel Matip squandered a free header and Wenger brought on Lucas and Theo Walcott in an attempt to salvage a point.
However it was a Liverpool substitute - Divock Origi - who went close when his downward header bounced off the post. And Origi turned provider in stoppage time to set up Wijnaldum.
Referee: Robert Madley
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