Arsenal held their own at Anfield, despite being a man down, with Granit Xhaka getting a red. The Swiss professional got sent off in the 24th minute for a chest-high lunge on Diego Jota, but Jurgen Klopp’s side still failed to get the better of Mikel Arteta’s team in the first leg of the English League Cup semifinals, on Thursday. 

Though the Gunners came on with a depleted squad and managed to lose two more players, Cedric Soares and Bukayo Saka, to injury during the game, Liverpool lacked the distinctive attacking edge with both Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah engaged in the African Cup of Nations. 

Coming off a humbling defeat to second-tier Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup Round 3, Arteta was looking for a more positive result and some tenacious defending, with impressive performances from centre backs Ben White and Gabriel, helped in this process. 

White said, “There is so much fight in this team. It’s hard enough to come here with 11 men and to get one sent off is not easy. Absolutely superb from everyone.” 

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Liverpool, which previously beat Arsenal 4-0, in their English Premier League fixture this season, barely managed to trouble Aaron Ramsdale, the Gunners’ goalkeeper. He was only called into action in the final frenzied moments, despite Liverpool having 78% possession throughout the match. Klopp’s side managed to place one shot on target, which came late in the game, during the second-half stoppage time. 

Arteta commented, “I think we showed great fight, determination, attitude, brotherhood. We played the game we had to play. It’s not our game but we had to play it.” 

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The next leg of this fixture will be at Arsenal home ground, the Emirates Stadium. The winner will proceed to face Chelsea at Wembley, for the title next month. 

Meanwhile, Klopp has also spoken about going up against Arteta across two legs, saying, “I can’t remember when it was 0-0 at halftime, wherever I’ve been, and I thought, ‘We have no chance.’ We will give it a proper go.” 

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However, the German coach will still lack Mane and Salah’s magic, going into the match, while Arsenal’s midfield has been severely depleted, with Martin Odegaard out with COVID-19, Emile Smith Rowe injured and both Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny at the African Cup. Xhaka is out now too, due to the red card he picked up, bringing his total tally to five, since the time he joined Arsenal in 2016. No other Premier League player has amassed as many reds as the hotheaded midfielder, in this period. 

[Edited with AP Inputs]