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WELL that’s one Festive tradition blown to bits…it turns out you don’t need a turkey for a Christmas feast after all.

Two Premier League giants, going toe to toe and serving up an absolute cracker, can leave the biggest of football appetites rubbing their belly in content.

Gabriel Magalhaes opened the scoring.

Mohamed Salah dragged Liverpool level.

We certainly got that at Anfield last night, as Liverpool and Arsenal showed exactly why the rest of the world looks on at the Prem in envy.

A world away from last week’s borefest that made Songs of Praise look like an action movie. High octane, high level, high entertainment from start to finish.

A quickfire goal from Arsenal, courtesy of Gabriel, a rocket of a reply from Mo Salah for Liverpool. And ultimately honours even in a game that took your breath away.

And to think they were billing that heavyweight boxing bill in Saudi Arabia as the Day of Reckoning. Not a bit of it.

Even a gift in there for champions Manchester City, too, whose World Club Championship-winning weekend was capped by the other three at the top all dropping points.

The door was ajar for a winner on Merseyside topping the Christmas charts. A point apiece means it will be Arsenal.

And hard to argue they don’t merit it after taking the fight to the Kop. That was how they stole the lead after just three minutes.

It came when Martin Odegaard curled in a free kick, Ibrahima Konate let Gabriel drift by, keeper Alisson was caught in two minds and the centre-back planted a header in the corner.

Still a hairy moment or two for the Gunners before VAR confirmed he was onside. By no more than the width of Cody Gakpo’s shirt, maybe, but that was enough.

It was the first time Liverpool had trailed at home since Antoine Semenyo had the temerity to put Bournemouth ahead here in August. A lead that didn’t last.

Just like Arsenal’s didn’t yesterday, either. Then again, there wasn’t a soul who believed this was ever going to be a one-goal game…clashes between these two never are.

With Liverpool stung into action by that early rap – and the Jurgen Klopp demanding the Kop pump up the volume beforehand – this was no Silent Night.

Not in terms of the decibel levels…and not in terms of the excitement being served up. Not so much football doing the talking, as bellowing.

And on 28 minutes Salah gave those increasingly croaky-throated supporters further cause to strain their vocal cords with a laser-guided leveller.

You could say the same about Trent Alexander-Arnold’s stunning 50-yard crossfield pass to pick him out on the right, before he cut inside and let one rip into the top corner.

Talk about a change in the balance of power. Talk about a change in the momentum. All of a sudden Liverpool were flying and Arsenal fighting to survive.

Odegaard escaped a penalty call when the ball clearly hit his left hand, but he was saved because he was stumbling to try and keep his balance.

While the Arsenal skipper just about stayed upright, Kostas Tsimikas didn’t manage it when a nudge from Bukayo Saka sent him tumbling on the left touchline.

Worse followed for the Greek left back, who crashed into his gaffer – putting Klopp on the deck as well.

Yet while Jurgen picked himself up, Tsimikas lay in agony, holding his shoulder in agony, and his night was done. Crocked by his own boss in the most bizarre injury you’ll ever see.

Into the fray, then, came Joe Gomez, who subsequently whipped a strike inches wide of the far post. A man still waiting for his first Liverpool goal after nearly 200 appearances.

Proof that the edge-of-the-seat entertainment really was coming from all quarters. Surely it couldn’t last. Surely, they’d have to pause for breath at some stage.

Well yes, the 100mph pace did slacken off eventually. Clearly it needed a burst of energy from the bench. And when Klopp decided as much, it nearly paid off in an instant.

Harvey Elliott had been on the pitch for barely a minute when he took aim from 20 yards and was a whisker away from finding the bottom corner.

With fresh wind in their sails, Liverpool charged forward…quite literally when one counter saw Salah spoilt for choice, with options aplenty.

He picked Alexander Arnold, quite rightly. You’d have put your house on him burying it. Amazingly the cleanest striker of a ball in a Red shirt rattled the crossbar.

Quite appropriate really. It wouldn’t be Christmas without The Great Escape, and that was Arsenal’s.

It was also the moment you realised we were destined to share the spoils. To be honest, it would have been cruel for either to walk away as a loser.


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