Ten-man Arsenal displayed all the resilience and fight which was missing in their weekend FA Cup exit as a goalless draw at Liverpool saw them carry the initiative into next week’s Carabao Cup semi-final second leg.
Granit Xhaka’s second red card in just 13 appearances this season handed Liverpool the numerical advantage for 71 minutes of this tie but they had been well below their best before that and they struggled even more against an organised 5-3-1 formation.
Arsenal actually performed better with a man less and Bukayo Saka’s thrusting runs down the right ensured their hosts always had to be aware of his threat.
The England midfielder also forced the best save of the night from Alisson Becker – remarkably making his League Cup debut after three-and-a-half-years – midway through the second half.
Liverpool had 78 per cent possession but only managed to force Aaron Ramsdale into one save – in added time – from the 17 attempts they had.
Jurgen Klopp had wanted a one-off game and that is effectively what he has now got, although following last week’s postponement of the original first leg in London because of Liverpool’s Covid outbreak the advantage is now with Mikel Arteta’s side.
A relatively quiet evening for the keeper, who was finally making his League Cup debut more than three years after moving to Anfield, until he was forced to save well to deny Saka.
Trent Alexander-Arnold 5
The full-back – making his first appearance in the competition in five years – saw plenty of the ball but his dead-ball delivery was uncharacteristically poor while his passing too often lacked conviction.
Joel Matip 6
Generally steady in defence and used the ball positively whenever the opportunity presented itself.
Virgil van Dijk 6
The centre-back was kept busier than he probably expected during the second half as Arsenal maintained their attacking threat.
Andy Robertson 6
Delivered a superb cross-field ball that caught out the Arsenal defence and led to Xhaka’s sending off, but Saka’s presence limited his opportunities to get forward.
Offered his usual physical presence in midfield before being withdrawn as Klopp attempted to inject more creativity into his side.
Jordan Henderson 7
There was no shortage of drive and determination in the midfielder’s display but, like his team-mates, the skipper couldn’t produce the incisive ball that would have helped break down Arsenal’s obstinate defence.
James Milner 6
The veteran midfielder had his hands full helping Robertson cope with the pace of Saka and was eventually replaced by Jones on the hour.
Takumi Minamino 6
The winger had provided a number of dangerous-looking crosses from the left but fluffed his lines when he was presented with the best chance of the game late on, firing his shot over the bar.
Roberto Firmino 6
A frustrating night for the forward who worked hard trying to find a way through the Arsenal defence without being able to find the final, incisive pass or finish.
Diogo Jota 6
Denied a clear sight of goal by Xhaka’s red-card challenge after a strong run from inside his own half but had few clear opportunities before spurning a late chance.
Jones for Milner 61, 7
Oxlade-Chamberlain for Fabinho 75, 6
Williams for Alexander-Arnold 75, 6
Gomez for Matip 75, 6
Subs not used: Kelleher, Konaté, Tsimikas, Gordon, Morton
Aaron Ramsdale 6
An early scare when his misjudged clearance almost let in Henderson wasn’t the keeper’s last misjudgement. Klopp will wonder why his side didn’t test the keeper more severely.
Cedric Soares 6
The right-back provided an early test for Alisson, before his evening was abruptly cut short when he was forced off with what appeared to be a problem with his right knee.
Ben White 8
An early clearance to prevent Minamino’s cross reaching Firmino set the tone for a determined display from the centre-back who grew in stature as the game went on.
There were early signs of nerves from the centre-back on his return from suspension but he soon settled to help his defensive colleagues provide a formidable barrier in front of Ramsdale.
Kieran Tierney 7
A testing early cross showed the strength of the Scotland international going forward and he almost set up Saka midway through the second half.
Granit Xhaka 4
The Switzerland international brings bite to the Arsenal midfield. Unfortunately he also brings the risk of a red card and his ill-judged challenge on Jota in the 24th minute made his side’s task even harder.
Albert Sambi Lokonga 7
Forced to shoulder more responsibility after Xhaka’s dismissal, the midfielder rose to the challenge, helping Arteta’s reshaped team withstand Liverpool’s attempt to make the breakthrough.
Gabriel Martinelli 7
Recovered after coming off a painful second best in an early collision with Van Dijk to play a full part in his side’s impressive second-half display.
Alexandre Lacazette 6
Industrious display from the forward who started in the No 10 role after Odegaard was ruled out, before leading the line after the first-half reshuffle.
Bukayo Saka 8
The youngster repeatedly troubled the left-hand side of Liverpool’s defence and ensured Arsenal were able to maintain a threat even after going down to 10 men.
Eddie Nketiah 6
Any hopes the forward had of adding to his tally of 10 goals in nine appearances in this competition disappeared when he was replaced by Holding following Xhaka’s dismissal.
Chambers for Cedric 11, 7
Holding for Nketiah 28, 7
Tavares for Saka 80, 6
Subs not used: Leno, Mari, Tavares, Patino, Salah-Eddine, Hutchinson, Biereth
Referee: M Oliver 6