August 20, 2011
LONDON-(AFP) – Arsene Wenger’s difficult start to the season continued when his 10-man Arsenal side lost 2-0 at home to Liverpool on Saturday thanks to an Aaron Ramsey own goal and a late strike from Luis Suarez.
Ramsey’s freak own-goal set Liverpool on course for a first win of the season after Kenny Dalglish’s side had been held by Sunderland on the opening day.
But Arsenal’s decline had begun eight minutes earlier when Emmanuel Frimpong marked his first Premier League start with a red card following an ugly challenge on Lucas Leiva.
Frimpong’s dismissal comes on the back of Gervinho’s sending off at Newcastle last week and means that Wenger’s side have collected one point and two red cards in their opening two games of the campaign.
And having already come in for heavy criticism from fans for his failure to strengthen the squad during the close-season, this result will do nothing to lift the pressure on Wenger.
By contrast Liverpool manager Dalglish will be relieved to have got off the mark after spending heavily on new signings.
The spark, following Frimpong’s dismissal, was provided by the introduction of Uruguay forward Suarez.
The outcome overshadowed Wenger’s decision to restore Samir Nasri to his starting line up.
Wenger had insisted before the game that Nasri was in his plans as Manchester City continue to struggle to conclude a deal for the unsettled France midfielder.
The reaction when Nasri’s name was announced before kick-off was muted and by the time the player surged forward from deep inside his own half before firing narrowly wide in the 35th minute, the signs were that, for now, he was back in favour.
That at least was one less thing for Wenger to worry about after a troubled start to the campaign.
There was bad news for Wenger when centre back Laurent Koscielny pulled up with a back problem in the 15th minute.
That meant he was forced to introduce 18-year-old Ignasi Miquel for his league debut, exposing Arsenal’s stretched defensive resources.
Despite that, the Gunners backline did well to handle a Liverpool attack led by Andy Carroll, with Suarez held back on the bench.
Dalglish’s side started the brighter of the two teams with Carroll and Jordan Henderson both sending free headers too close to Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny, but Arsenal grew in confidence as the first half wore on.
Frimpong added steel to the midfield in the absence of the injured Jack Wilshere while Nasri and Robin van Persie caused problems for the Liverpool defence.
Too often, though, the home side were guilty of taking the wrong option, notably when Theo Walcott led a break three minutes before half time but elected to pass to Van Persie when Andrey Arshavin was clear.
The second half remained tightly contested although Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina was forced to react well to save from Robin van Persie.
Then Frimpong collected a second yellow card for a reckless, studs up challenge on Lucas that could have easily brought a straight red, and the tide of the game turned.
Miquel was forced into a hurried clearance under pressure from Suarez in the 78th minute and could only watch in horror as the ball struck Ramsey on the chest and flew past Szczesny.
Then, in the 90th minute, Lucas and Raul Meireles combined to set up Suarez, who was left with the simplest of finishes.AFP