Arsenal reduced Liverpool’s lead at the top of the Premier League to two points after a deserved victory in a tense encounter at Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners knew defeat was unthinkable and their cause was helped hugely by two errors from Liverpool’s normally reliable keeper Alisson, who gifted Arsenal the goals that ensured three crucial points.
It sparked joyous scenes at the final whistle as Arsenal condemned Liverpool to only their second league defeat this season, their first since a highly controversial loss at Tottenham in late September.
Arsenal were rewarded for a lightning start when Bukayo Saka gave them a 14th-minute lead, turning home a rebound after Alisson saved from Kai Havertz.
The hosts dominated proceedings but a defensive shambles allowed Liverpool to restore parity seconds before the break, Gabriel turning the ball into his own net via his hand after a mix-up between keeper David Raya and William Saliba as they challenged Luis Diaz.
Liverpool carried more momentum after the interval with Alexis Mac Allister going close twice and Curtis Jones just off target before the Gunners were the next beneficiaries of a calamitous error, this time between Alisson and Virgil van Dijk, that saw them restore their lead after 67 minutes.
Alisson rushed from his goal and kicked fresh air as Van Dijk tried to deal with a long clearance, leaving Gabriel Martinelli with the simplest of finishes into an empty net.
And Liverpool’s misery was compounded in the closing stages when defender Ibrahima Konate was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Havertz, before substitute Leandro Trossard added a third in stoppage time – Alisson once again at fault as he allowed a routine near-post shot through his legs.
Arsenal come through fierce test
Arsenal’s worst fears were sweeping around the Emirates when a defensive blunder seconds before half-time allowed Liverpool to go in level, after Mikel Arteta’s side had controlled the first 45 minutes and barely allowed the league leaders a chance.
The atmosphere was suddenly subdued, the mood shifting markedly, and when Liverpool looked to move through the gears in the early stages of the second half Arsenal looked unsettled.
Instead the Gunners showed great character to gather themselves and reassert their authority and – while they were thankful for a rare off-day from the usually outstanding Alisson – this was a real show of steel that resulted in a win that will send belief surging through Arteta and his players.
Arsenal wanted to banish memories of their recent FA Cup third-round loss here to Liverpool, when they paid the price for missing a succession of chances, and this was the perfect response on a day when another defeat would have surely ended their title hopes.
Now, after a win at Nottingham Forest on Tuesday, this has been an ideal week for the Gunners who are right in the heart of the Premier League title race.
And at the heart of this win was the exciting Martinelli, a constant threat to Liverpool as well as a goalscorer, while Declan Rice was imperious in midfield.
The celebrations after the final whistle showed how important this was to Arsenal – and who can blame them for enjoying the moment?
Below-par Liverpool lack usual spark
Liverpool did not deserve anything from this display, its off-colour nature summed up by the manner of the two goals that gave Arsenal a victory they fully merited.
Jurgen Klopp’s side were fortunate to go in level at half-time, having been presented with an equaliser no-one in the stadium saw coming, although there were signs early in the second half that they were in the mood to cash in on that gift.
Instead, Arsenal’s win was rubber-stamped by farcical defending that put the Gunners back in charge.
Van Dijk was far too casual and seemed barely aware of Martinelli’s presence as he went to deal with a routine long clearance, the situation not helped by Alisson’s injudicious dash from goal and air-kick, leaving Arsenal’s forward to complete the formalities.
After Konate had been sent off, Trossard was allowed to run unchallenged before embarrassing Alisson once more with a low shot through the keeper’s legs which completed a miserable match for the Brazilian.
Liverpool have coped superbly with the absence of Mohamed Salah, away with Egypt at the Africa Cup Of Nations where he sustained a hamstring injury, but were crying out for his brilliance here as they failed to even mount the traditional surge that has been their trademark.
There is no need to panic for the Reds, who are still clear at the top of the table, but there will be real disappointment that they delivered such a poor performance in a game where they could conceivably have killed off Arsenal’s title challenge.
4WhiteBooked at 31mins
2SalibaBooked at 90mins
6GabrielBooked at 57mins
35ZinchenkoSubstituted forKiwiorat 45′minutesBooked at 69mins
41RiceBooked at 90mins
7SakaSubstituted forNelsonat 79′minutes
29HavertzBooked at 90mins
11MartinelliSubstituted forTrossardat 74′minutes
1Alisson66Alexander-Arnold5Konaté4van Dijk2Gomez38Gravenberch10Mac Allister17Jones18Gakpo20Jota7Díaz
66Alexander-ArnoldSubstituted forRobertsonat 58′minutes
5KonatéBooked at 88mins
2GomezBooked at 25minsSubstituted forThiago Alcántaraat 85′minutes
38GravenberchSubstituted forElliottat 58′minutes