Cech an as­set for Ar­se­nal in draw with Liver­pool

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY ROB HARRIS

Af­ter Petr Cech’s open­ing- day blun­ders proved so costly for Ar­se­nal, the vet­eran goal­keeper demon­strated against Liver­pool on Mon­day why he will be an as­set rather than a li­a­bil­ity for his new team.

A 0- 0 draw at home might seem frus­trat­ing for a side long­ing to end a 12- year wait for a Premier League ti­tle but with­out Cech’s as­sured pres­ence in goal it could have been back- to- back home losses at the start of the sea­son for the first time in 66 years at Ar­se­nal.

A dar­ing block at the feet of Chris­tian Ben­teke was fol­lowed by Philippe Coutinho’s strike be­ing tipped onto the post by Cech mak­ing the slight­est of touches at full stretch.

With a frag­ile, makeshift de­fense in front of him, Cech was re­quired to com­pen­sate for those vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties — rather than gift­ing goals as he did two weeks ago against West Ham in his first league game since the US$ 17- mil­lion switch across Lon­don from Chelsea.

“When you start with a new club and ev­ery­thing goes wrong, you need to bounce back and this is what I tried to do,” Cech said, re­flect­ing on that 2- 0 loss to West Ham. “To­day was one those games where I was in the right place at the right times.”

But with the Gun­ners so in­ef­fec­tive up front, the draw left them with four points from a pos­si­ble nine at the start of the sea­son, far from the form that will see them threaten to win the ti­tle for the first time since 2004.

It was Ar­se­nal’s first clean sheet of the sea­son, but a third for Liver­pool. Although Liver- pool has seven points, the ir­ri­ta­tion for the visi­tors was their in­abil­ity to make it three wins out of three as they chase a re­turn to the Cham­pi­ons League by fin­ish­ing in the top four.

The op­por­tu­nity was there, with in­juries deny­ing Ar­se­nal its first- choice cen­ter back part­ner- ship of Per Merte­sacker ( ill­ness) and Lau­rent ( back). In came Calum Cham­bers, whose hes­i­tancy com­pounded the col­lec­tive un­ease in Ar­se­nal’s de­fense, along­side Gabriel.

“They didn’t have the ex­pe­ri­ence to play to­gether,” Wenger said. “But we didn’t con­cede and Petr Cech saved us two or three times in the first half.”

Five min­utes be­fore half time, Ben­teke was primed to score when Roberto Firmino — mak­ing his first start for Liver­pool — squared the ball to the Bel­gium striker. But Cech was at full stretch on the ground to block a tap- in from Ben­teke.

A finer save fol­lowed be­fore half time. Coutinho be­fud­dled Hec­tor Bel­lerin on the left flank, twist­ing around the de­fender, be­fore flash­ing a shot that Cech di­verted onto the post.

The qual­ity off the saves was matched by coun­ter­part Si­mon Mig­no­let with around 20 min­utes to go, palm­ing away Olivier Giroud’s strike with his right hand from point- blank range.

The ref­eree had saved Liver­pool in the open­ing ten min­utes.

A week af­ter Liver­pool was the ben­e­fi­ciary of an off­side be­ing missed when Ben­teke scored the win­ner against Bournemouth, Ar­se­nal midfielder Aaron Ram­sey wrongly had a goal ruled out for off­side af­ter he met a pre­cise through­ball from Santi Ca­zorla.

What pleased Liver­pool man­ager Rodgers was his team’s solid de­fend­ing pre­vent­ing Ar­se­nal scor­ing for a sec­ond suc­ces­sive home game while pro­vid­ing a threat go­ing for­ward.

“De­fen­sive or­ga­ni­za­tion will be the plat­form for us with all our cre­ative flair,” Rodgers said. “We kept a re­ally good clean sheet but dis­ap­pointed we didn’t get the win.”

In May, 13 points sep­a­rated third- place Ar­se­nal from Ar­se­nal in sixth. The gulf at the start of the new sea­son does not seem as vast, although both teams seem far from chal­leng­ing Manch­ester City’s sta­tus as early ti­tle fa­vorites.

AP

Ar­se­nal’s Gabriel, left, com­petes for the ball with Liver­pool’s Chris­tian Ben­teke dur­ing the English Premier League soc­cer match be­tween Ar­se­nal and Liver­pool at Emi­rates sta­dium in Lon­don, Mon­day, Aug. 24.

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