LONDON: Mikel Arteta emerged triumphant over Jurgen Klopp from the last Premier League duel between the two main rivals threatening Pep Guardiola’s title command. Yet Liverpool remained top of the Premier League despite a 3-1 defeat marked by two slices of crazy defending.

Arsenal’s deserved success in North London lifted them within two points of a poor Liverpool, with Guardiola’s Manchester City at Brentford on Monday. Yet Liverpool’s pursuit of a farewell quadruple for their manager, including the league title, remains alive and well despite a second defeat of the campaign.

The size of the task facing both rival managers this season – and Arteta in the future – is illustrated by the statistic that Guardiola has failed only three times in 15 seasons to win the league in which he has been competing.

Liverpool had won 2-0 at Arsenal in the FA Cup third round and painful memories fired the Gunners to seize immediate control. The pace of Saka and Martinelli set Liverpool on the back foot and the England winger opened the scoring after 14 minutes.

Kai Havertz, deputising at centre-forward for the injured Gabriel Jesus, accelerated clear from Virgil van Dijk, and should have scored himself. His shot was saved by Alisson but Saka converted the loose ball.

Liverpool were, unusually, the team being pressed and harassed in possession. They failed to create any significant attacking moves and missed the option of Darwin Nunez as a target man up front. Klopp had preferred Cody Gakpo, dropping the Uruguayan to the substitutes’ bench.

Then, out of nowhere and without having had a shot on goal, Liverpool equalised two minutes into first half stoppage time. Ryan Gravenberch’s chip over the Arsenal defence was chased down by Luis Diaz whose attempted cross ricocheted into the net off Gabriel’s right hand.

For Arsenal it was a ridiculous goal to concede, for Liverpool the timing was perfect.

Liverpool improved briefly at the start of the second half. Curtis Jones sent an angled shot narrowly wide but there was no further breakthrough so Klopp implemented a triple change to bring on Nunez, Harvey Elliott and Andy Robertson.

Havertz might have re-established Arsenal’s lead in the 64th minute but hesitated fatally as he cut inside from the left and was disposessed by Alexis Mac Allister. No matter. Two minutes later confusion between Alisson and Van Dijk on the edge of their own penalty box gifted Martinelli the chance to shoot into an unprotected goal.

It was a bizarre – and costly – tangle between the best goalkeeper and best central defender in the league.

Konate was sent off for a second yellow card and Arsenal capitalised for Leandro Trossard to score a third goal.