LONDON: Mesut Ozil contributed yet another assist as Arsenal followed up their Champions League revival by vapourising bottom of the table Aston Villa 2-0 and taking over at the top of the Premier League.
Olivier Giroud scored his 50thPremier goal from a penalty before Ozil set up the second for man of the match Aaron Ramsey. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger praised both, describing Ozil as “an absolutely complete collective player” and Ramsey as “outstanding.”
Along the way goalkeeper Petr Cech equalled David James’s record of 169 Premier League clean sheets. Both Cech and hat-trick hero Giroud – with his hat-trick against Olympiacos in Greece – had been key figures in the midweek Champions League progress.
Tottenham wasted the chance to overtake Manchester United and go fourth in losing 2-1 at home to Newcastle who thus escaped the relegation zone and raced up to 15th, above Chelsea.
Spurs took a first-half lead through Eric Dier but Newcastle, winners over Liverpool the previous week, came to life after the arrival of substitute Aleksandr Mitrovic midway through the second half. He equalised and then provided the headed assist for Ayoze Perez’s winner two minutes into stoppage time.
Liverpool escaped a second successive league defeat with a stoppage time equaliser from Divock Origi for a 2-2 draw after allowing West Bromwich off the hook at Anfield.
Jurgen Klopp’s team again played with plenty of energy and created a string of shooting chances but, in the absence of Daniel Sturridge, lacked accuracy in and around the penalty box.
Klopp was delighted with the way his team snatched a point after a tough week with a defeat at Liverpool and draw at Sion on Thursday in the Europa League.
He sent his players to salute the fans at the final whistle and said: “It was a perfect finish. One point was the minimum we deserved today. We made a good game in the week then had to come back to play against a wall which was not easy but we did it well.
“We created chances and made a perfect goal and then got [conceded] two at set pieces but I can live with the draw because this was a special moment for us at the stage of the season to strike back in this way against such a team.
“It was the best atmosphere since I have been here. The fans were in the game and saw that the lads tried everything.”
Liverpool were without injured-again Sturridge but at least captain Jordan Henderson was fit for his first start in midfield since August. Philippe Coutinho also returned from injury in place of Roberto Firmino.
Klopp’s team made their now-usual whirlwind start and were rewarded by the returnees: Coutinho crossed, Lallana headed down and Henderson shot home from close range. Unfortunately Liverpool were then caught out in defence themselves. Simon Mignolet flapped his hands in vain at Christ Brunt’s corner and Craig Dawson equalised.
The goalkeeper’s error will exacerbate concern that, despite Klopp’s faith in the Belgian, Liverpool need to spend money on a more secure replacement.
West Brom were furious after Jonas Olsson had a goal disallowed for offside just before half-time but the break allowed Liverpool to regain momentum. By the hour mark they had rained 16 shots in and around the visitors’ goal.
The failure to score proved costly. With 17 minutes remaining another Brunt corner embarrassed Liverpool’s defence and this time Olsson’s goal counted. To add to Liverpool’s problems, they then had central defender Dejan Lovren carried off with a gashed knee.
Klopp brought on Origi up in attack as Lovren’s substitute and he came to the rescue with a stoppage time equaliser.
** Claudio Ranieri and Jose Mourinho come face to face in the Premier League for the first time on Monday, 11 years after Chelsea sacked the one to appoint the other. Yet if Ranieri’s Leicester win tonight they will be back on top of the table, 20 points clear of the champions.