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Football

Carabao Cup: Ten-man Gunners battle for first leg-draw in semi-final

LIVERPOOL DEFENDER VIRGIL VAN DIJK TRYING TO SHIELD THE BALL. PHOTO COURTESY: GETTY IMAGES.

The Gunners secured an outstanding 0-0 draw at Liverpool on Thursday night despite seeing Granit Xhaka sent off in the first half of their Carabao Cup semi-final first leg at Anfield.

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta was hit with a string of absences for this match due to positive Covid-19 cases, AFCON absentees and with the number of players unavailable even wider than in the 1-0 FA Cup defeat to Nottingham Forest. On the positive front Granit Xhaka took over to midfield alongside Sambi Lokonga, but there was no involvement for any of Takehiro Tomiyasu, Emile Smith Rowe or Martin Odegaard, who are facing a race against time to face Tottenham in the Premier League. Youngsters Omari Hutchinson, Mika Biereth and Salah Oulad M’Hand are all to Anfield in a game where the manager was forced to shuffle his pack around.

Carabao Cup semi-final first leg

 Arsenal players during the past Carabao semi-final match against Liverpool. Photo courtesy: Getty Images

Gunners were forced to make an early change following Cedric injury that led him to a send-off, and then the waves of Liverpool pressure ensued. However, just when Arsenal were finally finding their feet and creating some intriguing moments on the break, madness struck.

Granit Xhaka’s move caught Jota in his midriff when he was clean through on goal, handing him a deserved red card and three-game bans. Somehow, despite being up against the odds, Arsenal had to hold on until half-time. After the break Gunners continued to show outstanding courage and determination as they fought tooth and nail against wave after Liverpool’s unstoppable attacks.

It was a good performance following the determination and energy of the team was second to none and not a single player left anything out on that pitch.

Aaron Ramsdale had a nervy moment during the first half but that was his only involvement as Gunners managed to prevent Liverpool from having any shot on goal. Cedric Soares, unfortunately, suffered a hip injury second into the match and efforts to run it off failed and had to return after ten minutes. Kieran Tierney expertly defended his space and timed his runs forward to close possession or join an attack well on Thursday night.

Gunner’s defender Cedric Soares came off early on during the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final against Liverpool, as Mikel Arteta’s injury problems continue to mount. Arsenal came into the clash at Anfield with a number of absentees among Thomas Partey, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Nicolas Pepe and Mohamed Elneny are all currently away for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.

At the moment, Takehiro Tomiyasu and  Emile Smith Rowe are both left out with injuries while  Martin Odegaard is in isolation after testing positive for Covid-19. Arteta’s side has suffered another blow after Portuguese right-back Cedric was forced to leave the match in the 14th minute after sustaining a knock, after which versatile Englishman Calum Chambers came in to replace the 30-year-old.

 Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka leaves the pitch after the red card during the Carabao cup semi-final. Photo courtesy: Getty Images

Arsenal was forced to go down to ten men after Granit Xhaka received a straight red card for a last-man challenge on Reds attacker Diogo Jota.

Xhaka’s sending off means he will have to out of Gunners next two matches, including this weekend’s crucial North London Derby against Tottenham Hotspur. The move leaves Arteta extremely short in the centre of the park, with Albert Sambi Lokonga as the only senior midfielder available against the Lillywhites.

The Gunners have been linked with a number of midfielders in recent days, including Juventus star Arthur Melo, who has struggled for consistent game time with the Serie A giants so far this season.

 

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