Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta praised his team’s “fight, determination and brotherhood” after the 10 Gunners frustrated Liverpool in the Carabao Cup semi-final first leg at Anfield.
Granit Xhaka was sent off after 24 minutes for denying a scoring opportunity. The Swiss midfielder caught Diogo Jota with a high challenge on the edge of his penalty area as he tried to cut off a pass from Andrew Robertson.
However, Trent Alexander-Arnold was unable to punish Arsenal further with the resulting free kick, and the visitors put on a determined defensive display to go off on equal footing.
Despite being under intense pressure, it was Arsenal who registered the first shot on goal in the 71st minute of the match, but a poor first touch from Bukayo Saka allowed Alisson to smother the England international’s shot from close range.
Takumi Minamino fired over the crossbar as he faced an open goal with Liverpool’s best chance of the match in the closing stages.
“They never gave up even though it is extremely difficult against this opponent,” Arteta said.
“I told the players before the game that you have to have a certain attitude and in difficult moments you have to react. I think the boys did very well,” he added.
“We played the match we had to play. I hope that now our fans will create an even better atmosphere [in the second leg] than today.”
The second leg takes place at the Emirates Stadium next Thursday at 19:45 GMT.
The winner will face Chelsea in the Wembley final at the end of February, after Thomas Tuchel’s side completed a 3-0 aggregate victory over Tottenham on Wednesday.
Liverpool misses Salah and Mane as Arsenal hold on
Eight-time EFL Cup winners Liverpool had lost home advantage in the second leg after an outbreak of Covid in their team meant that the planned first match in north London was postponed until 20 from January.
Several of those cases turned out to be false positives, although the EFL has said it will not investigate further, but despite being able to field a strong squad, the Reds were unable to make the most of their first leg against 10-man opposition. .
Both teams have lost key players in the current Africa Cup of Nations, but it was the absence of top scorer Mohamed Salah and striker Sadio Mane that proved most notable as Liverpool struggled to topple Arsenal.
Minamino fired a ball through the box as the hosts pressed for a breakthrough with greater urgency in the second half, but Jurgen Klopp’s trio of forwards, which also included Jota and Roberto Firmino, were unable to produce the necessary quality in the last third.
In a challenging night for the visitors, Martin Odegaard missed out following a positive Covid test and Xhaka’s sacking, plus Thomas Partey’s Afcon involvement, has compounded Arteta’s midfield problem ahead of the North London derby. Sunday at Tottenham.
Xhaka’s undeniable red card saw Rob Holding replace Eddie Nketiah and Alexandre Lacazette subsequently became a lone figure in attack as his team-mates worked tirelessly to guard Aaron Ramsdale’s goal.
But the only moments of real concern for the Arsenal goalkeeper came in the closing moments, when Minamino struck over the top after Ramsdale failed to claim the ball, while the excellent Ben White returned to clear Neco Williams’ attempt in time. discount.
Liverpool will be deeply frustrated at not being able to assert their numerical advantage, but Arteta’s side deserve great credit for a disciplined performance that ensures they have every chance of reaching the final.
“I would have preferred to score a goal rather than get a red card,” Liverpool manager Klopp said.
“It looked better [in the second half] but not good enough for a better result. But it’s a two-legged match and it’s halftime. I’ve never been 0-0 at halftime and thought ‘we have no chance.’ “