Arsenal tightened their grip on a place in the Premier League’s top four while inflicting damage on Liverpool’s Champions League aspirations with a convincing victory at Emirates. Arsenal scored 4 goals, 4 beautiful goals, I might add to record their 10th win from 11 league matches. The Gunners set the platform for a vital three points with a devastating burst of three goals in the last eight minutes of the first half from Hector Bellerin, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez. Raheem Sterling – starting up front for Liverpool after the midweek interview with the BBC that cast further doubt on his long-term Anfield future – battled hard and won a late penalty from which Jordan Henderson pulled a goal back.
In reality, however, this was little other than an afternoon of unrelenting misery for an abject Liverpool, who had Emre Can sent off for two bookable offences before Olivier Giroud delivered the final blow with a spectacular fourth for Arsenal in the closing seconds. Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger will feel a place in next season’s Champions League is now within his grasp but Liverpool’s hopes are fading as they followed up the 2-1 home defeat by Manchester United by being convincingly outplayed. The win puts Arsenal nine points ahead of Liverpool with seven games left, while manager Brendan Rodgers’ side also trail Manchester United by five points before Saturday’s meeting with Aston Villa at Old Trafford. Liverpool were without captain Steven Gerrard and Martin Skrtel, who were serving three-match suspensions for stamping in last month’s match against Manchester United.
It was Liverpool who should have gone ahead after 18 minutes when Philippe Coutinho sent Lazar Markovic through on goal but he mysteriously passed on responsibility to Sterling, matters made worse by the failure to find his intended target. There was little indication of the mayhem to come as the game moved towards the interval – but Arsenal delivered three heavy hits to Liverpool in the final eight minutes of the half. Bellerin’s finish for the first, cutting in from the the right before a precise left-foot finish into the bottom corner, was exemplary but the defending of Liverpool’s Alberto Moreno was nothing short of shambolic as he virtually ushered his opponent into a dangerous position. Arsenal’s second came three minutes later as Ozil curled a delightful 25-yard free-kick beyond Mignolet and the third arrived on the stroke of half-time when Sanchez scored with a thunderous shot from the edge of the area – although it passed suspiciously close to Liverpool’s keeper before going in.
Liverpool were offered some hope with 14 minutes left when they were awarded a penalty for Bellerin’s foul on Sterling. Henderson’s penalty was not exactly convincing but it did the job as it sneaked past Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina. Any Liverpool hopes of a comeback were soon snuffed out when Can, who had picked up a foolish yellow card for dissent, made a wild challenge on Arsenal substitute Danny Welbeck and was sent off. It was fully deserved but there was an element of justification to Liverpool’s protests after Bellerin escaped a second yellow card after conceding a penalty. Giroud’s final goal was simply the gloss on a fine Arsenal display – and the final insult for Liverpool.