Jurgen Klopp saluted Liverpool’s fighting spirit as they kept fired-up Arsenal at bay to seal a 2-0 win in the FA Cup third round on Sunday.
Klopp’s side had to survive a sustained Arsenal assault at the Emirates Stadium before two goals in the closing stages gave them a hard-fought success.
Arsenal’s Jakub Kiwior headed Trent Alexander-Arnold’s free-kick into his own net in the 80th minute and Luis Diaz wrapped up the victory deep into stoppage-time.
In the absence of the ill Virgil van Dijk, as well as Mohamed Salah and Wataru Endo on international duty, Liverpool showed they have the character required to win silverware this season.
“In the end we came through. I’m really happy we could win this game. Arsenal could have won it without a doubt. We finished it off and it spoke for the character of the boys,” Klopp said.
“I’m super proud. It was a super difficult draw. Maybe the most difficult we could have got.
“It wasn’t an easy game to enjoy in the first half. We changed a bit at halftime.
“We were really in the game in the second half. We scored the goals and fought for 95 minutes.”
With Premier League leaders Liverpool chasing four trophies and facing a League Cup semifinal first leg against Fulham in midweek, Klopp was relieved to avoid a draining FA Cup replay.
Liverpool are two points ahead of second placed Aston Villa and five above fourth placed Arsenal as they chase a first title since 2020.
KLOPP WELCOMES LIVERPOOL BREAK
By avoiding an Arsenal rematch, Liverpool will have a revitalising break after the Fulham game until January 21 when they go to Bournemouth in the Premier League.
“We desperately wanted to avoid a draw. Now I don’t have to make any decisions which is good,” Klopp said.
“Wednesday is the next game and then a few days off. We have to make steps if you want to be where we are. We will have a winter break now.”
Klopp saluted the influence of England defender Alexander-Arnold, who kept driving Liverpool forward in the second half.
“What a game he played by the way in all the positions he played. You see his class on the ball,” the German said.
Arsenal have now won just one of their last six games in all competitions, losing three in a row to leave their once-promising season in limbo.
Mikel Arteta’s side are out of the FA Cup and League Cup and are no longer in pole position in the Premier League.
Arteta admitted they had only themselves to blame after squandering a host of chances to take the lead.
“The performance was there and the amount of chances too. We just have to win the game, but we lost it and we are not capitalising,” he said.
“When you are better than the best team in Europe and you generate that amount of chances, I have not seen a team do it against them.
“But it is not enough. The reality is, it is not enough.”
Arteta insisted he would not panic despite Arsenal’s untimely slump.
“When my team plays with this confidence what can I do? I am still behind them 100 per cent,” he said.
“It is what it is and we have to continue to play the same way and be more efficient.”