LIVERPOOL – Leading 2-0 at Anfield after just 28 minutes, Arsenal’s traveling fans were in dreamland.
By the end, the Premier League leaders were left clinging on for a point as Liverpool blew the title race wide open.
While it was the home crowd celebrating the loudest as the final whistle blew on a thrilling 2-2 draw, Manchester City feels like the biggest winner.
This could prove a pivotal weekend in determining who will be crowned champions, with the gap at the top down to six points and second-place City still having a game in hand on Arsenal.
With the leading pair also still to play at City’s Etihad Stadium at the end of the month, both teams can determine their own fate.
On the face of it, a point at Anfield is a solid-enough result at one of the most daunting stadiums in soccer. But this felt like an opportunity missed after Arsenal had cruised into a commanding position through goals from Gabriel Martinelli and Gabriel Jesus and looked on course for an eighth straight win in the league.
That was until Granit Xhaka’s confrontation with Trent Alexander-Arnold late in the first half, which led to bookings for both players and also roused the home crowd.
Mohamed Salah scored almost immediately after that flashpoint and in the second half it was the Liverpool of old as the Merseyside club dominated the game.
Salah missed a penalty in the 54th minute and Arsenal goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale produced a string of saves around substitute Roberto Firmino’s equalizer in the 87th.
“When you concede at the end it’s always two points dropped because you have it and you’re suffering in certain moments,” Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said afterward. “The feeling is ‘Ah we should have done it.’
“We have to look at ourselves in the mirror and we should have done better in the second half.”
City’s 4-1 win against Southampton on Saturday was the defending champions’ eighth win in succession, extending their unbeaten run to 12 games.
That is title-winning form and an ominous statement of intent to Arsenal, which has gone 19 years since last lifting the league championship.
The London club’s nerve will be put to the test when it travels to City on April 26 in what could effectively be a playoff for the title.
“Every single day is a test,” Arteta said. “The test now is how good are we going to be on Monday, and how well will we prepare and play the way we want to play to beat West Ham (next Sunday).”
LIVERPOOL BOUNCES BACK
For the best part of an hour, it was vintage Liverpool as Jurgen Klopp’s team produced a reminder of why it has been one of European soccer’s dominant teams in recent years.
Having already beaten City, Manchester United and Napoli at home this season, the Merseysiders brought Arsenal down to earth.
The problem for Klopp, whose team looks certain to miss out on Champions League qualification this season, is that Liverpool just cannot seem to do it on a consistent basis.
For example, Liverpool is still to win a game since routing United 7-0 last month.
“We lack consistency and confidence, these are the two things,” Klopp said. “We don’t have enough positive moments. We have these ups-and-downs in games and that is something we didn’t have ever before in six or seven years.
“This situation we are going through, it is not cool and not something we wanted.”
HODGSON LIFTS PALACE
Roy Hodgson’s golden touch continued as he made it two wins out of two since stepping out of retirement to help Crystal Palace’s Premier League survival bid.
A 5-1 rout of Leeds on Sunday, followed the 2-1 win against Leicester a week earlier in his second stint at the London club.
With Palace now up to 12th in the table and six points above the relegation zone, Hodgson has gone a long way to ensuring the club avoids the drop.
Not that he's taking anything for granted.
“It gives us a nice Sunday evening and a nice Easter Monday and a nice week’s training, but it’s still divorced from the number of points we need to stay in the league,” said the 75-year-old former England coach.
“So there’s plenty more performances like today that we have to produce and the good thing I think is that we won’t need to produce them by pulling rabbits out of hats.”
Patrick Bamford had put fellow relegation-fighter Leeds ahead in the first half before Marc Guehi evened the score before the break at Elland Road.
A second-half goal spree secured the win with Jordan Ayew scoring twice and Eberechi Eze and Odsonne Edouard also netting.
James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson