Debutant Joe Cole’s straight red card just before the break put Liverpool firmly on the back-foot, but within minutes of the restart David Ngog had given the hosts the lead with a well hit strike into the roof of the Kop net.
The Reds held strong, despite being temporarily down to 9 men when Daniel Agger suffered concussion, and looked like holding on for what would have been a morale boosting start to the season.
But the final minute of the 90 saw Pepe Reina the victim of an unlucky break as the Arsenal cross came in and Maroune Chamakh got across the keeper with the ball bouncing back off the post and in off the hapless Reina.
Despite still being a man short, it was Roy Hodgson’s side who pushed for the winner in the 5 minutes of stoppage time and forced the sending off of Arsenal‘s Laurent Koscielny.
Hodgson handed Cole and Milan Jovanovic their league debuts, with Ngog leading the line and Fernando Torres on the bench after injury. The Spaniard came on in the last 20 minutes, a welcome sight after a summer which often looked like he had played his last game in a Liverpool shirt.
Wantaway midfielder Javier Mascherano started alongside Steven Gerrard in midfield and offered a typically combatative display – although it could prove to be his final appearance for the club.
It was Mascherano who set-up Ngog for the opener on 46 minutes, sliding the ball into the box for the Frenchman to turn and finish high past Alumnia at the near post.
Despite their man advantage Arsenal failed to create any clear cut chances and it wasn’t until Reina’s unfortunate error that they drew level.
At half-time and a man down Liverpool would have settled for the point and there were plenty of positives to take from the game.
Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Skrtel, Agger, Kuyt, Mascherano (Lucas, 78), Gerrard, Jovanovic (Maxi, 65), Cole, Ngog (Torres, 74).
Subs not used: Cavalieri, Aurelio, Kelly, Babel.
Sent off: Cole (45)
Goal: Ngog (46)
Arsenal: Almunia, Sagna, Vermaelen, Koscienly, Clichy, Eboue (Walcott, 59), Diaby (Van Persie, 76), Nasri, Wilshere (Rosicky, 60), Arshavin, Chamakh.
Subs not used: Fabianski, Gibbs, Song, Vela.
Booked: Wilshere, Rosicky, Koscienly.
Sent off: Koscienly (92)
Goal: Reina (og, 91).
Referee: Martin Atkinson