Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker errors gifted Arsenal a 2-1 victory as Liverpool’s hopes of breaking the Premier League points record were dashed.
Sadio Mane looked to have set the champions on course for one of the three victories they needed to surpass Manchester City’s record 100-point haul with the opening goal after 20 minutes.
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But the bedrocks of Liverpool’s title triumph handed Arsenal a halftime lead, as rare van Dijk and Alisson mistakes were ruthlessly punished by Alexandre Lacazette and Reiss Nelson’s first Premier League goal.
And, despite a commanding second-half performance, Liverpool were unable to prevent a third defeat of the season as Arsenal climbed to ninth after their first victory over Jurgen Klopp’s side in five years.
It's an absolute HOWLER from Virgil van Dijk 🎁
A gift from the Liverpool centre-back, and Alexandre Lacazette is there to score.
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HOW LAPSES GIFTED ARSENAL VICTORY
A near full-strength Liverpool were dominant from the outset and were nearly gifted the opening goal on 13 minutes when Roberto Firmino charged down goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez’s lethargic clearance, sending the ball cannoning off the base of the post.
It looked to be business as usual for Liverpool as they stifled Arsenal, but then two pillars of their Premier League title-winning season conspired to gift the Gunners the lead out of nowhere.
The usually flawless van Dijk succumbed to Nelson’s high press, relinquishing possession to Lacazette, who rounded Alisson and stroked the equaliser into the empty net.
It was van Dijk’s first error that led to a goal in the Premier League since March 2019, and things soon took a turn for the worse for the champions as goalkeeper Alisson’s loose pass was intercepted by Lacazette, who squared to Nelson to rifle his first league goal for the Gunners.
Two for the Gunners!
It's another shocker at the back for Liverpool as Alisson misplaces a pass 🧤
And Reiss Nelson makes no mistake.
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Liverpool re-emerged from the break on top and determined to right the wrongs on the first period, and nearly drew level on 54 minutes when Mohamed Salah drew a fingertip save from Martinez.
The introduction of Takumi Minamino energised the Liverpool attack but he shanked a shot wide before Salah planted a header straight into the arms of Martinez, as desperation crept in as the seconds ebbed away.
Substitute Ainsley Maitland-Niles did just enough to put Mane off from hauling Liverpool level as he fired wide at the near post with two minutes remaining, moments before Joe Willock missed the chance to seal the Arsenal victory with a wild sliced shot from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s centre.
Mistakes happen. That’s part of football. But it’s how you react to them that matters. Two big games to go, let’s finish strong! Can’t wait for next Wednesday! 🏆🏅 pic.twitter.com/E7kXHwT23x
The final throw of the Liverpool dice saw Trent Alexander-Arnold’s deflected drive draw a stunning save from Martinez at full stretch in the fifth minute of stoppage time, but the Gunners stood firm to warm up for Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final with Manchester City in style.
Van Dijk told Sky Sports: “We gave them goals as a present. We dominated and put pressure on them but gave them two goals and obviously then it’s difficult to come back. If you give goals away like we did today, including myself, you get what you deserve.
“The goals shouldn’t happen, but until then nothing was wrong. We pressed them and scored a fantastic goal. A moment of concentration [cost us] and that was unfortunately something we had to deal with twice. It’s so easy to blame us having won the title.
“I had a feeling we could win here comfortably, but if you give them goals you see what happens. I made a mistake, I take the blame for it, I take it as a man, and we move on.”
This article originally appeared on Sky Sports and was reproduced with permission.
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