Arsenal blitzes Liverpool, improves UCL chances with three-goal win
LONDON (AP) — Arsenal produced a three-goal burst in eight minutes Saturday to beat Liverpool 4-1, making Champions League qualification look increasingly likely for the London club and keeping its faint title hopes alive.
The gulf between the sides was exposed in a commanding first half by Arsenal which ended with Hector Bellerin, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez scoring against the sloppy visitors.
"We were focused and clinical," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. "We had the killer instinct."
Although Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson pulled one back from the penalty spot, Emre Can was sent off in the 84th minute. Arsenal used its man advantage to ensure the victory was even more emphatic, with Olivier Giroud scoring in stoppage time.
"We were poor defensively," Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said.
A seventh successive league victory sent Arsenal provisionally above Manchester City into second place. Chelsea was only four points in front before playing Stoke in the late kickoff, but Jose Mourinho's side will still have a game in hand after that. "It needs us to be perfect and Chelsea not to be perfect," Wenger said.
For Liverpool, it was a listless response to its 13-match unbeaten run ending against Manchester United before the international break. With Liverpool in fifth after last season's runner-up finish, it was the type of performance that led to Raheem Sterling expressing misgivings about his Anfield future during the week.
That unsanctioned public outburst by Sterling was not the best preparation for the trip to the Emirates Stadium. Rodgers, though, did not try to use it as a smoke screen for his team's poor showing.
"He was excellent today, our best player, aggressive in his running, pressed the ball well, won the penalty, and was very direct and strong," Rodgers said.
But it was goalkeeper Simon Mignolet who ensured the defeat was not heavier, making saves early on from Sanchez, Santi Cazorla and then Aaron Ramsey after Kolo Toure gave the ball away.
Aggressive, sharp and spraying the ball with ease across the pitch, this was Arsenal at its best but the opener was missing.
"Right from the kickoff we were too negative," Rodgers said. "We put ourselves under pressure."
It took 20 minutes for Liverpool to unsettle Arsenal, but poor decision making proved costly.
Rather than taking aim at goal himself, Lazar Markovic sent a pass through to Sterling with too much pace and the forward was unable to make a clean connection to shoot.
Instead it was another 20-year-old on the score sheet as Bellerin netted his second goal for Arsenal. Ozil and Ramsey combined with a flowing move to set up the Spanish defender to curl the ball past Mignolet in the 37th minute.
Sakho and the Germany playmaker bent the free kick around the wall and past Mignolet.
Arsenal was being as ruthless as Liverpool was toothless. And it was game over when the third goal came in the 45th after Liverpool conceded possession around the halfway line.
Bellerin sent the ball forward to Ramsey, who picked out Sanchez. The Chile forward then resisted Toure's sliding challenge before dispatching the ball high past Mignolet.
The damage could have been worse for Liverpool had Mignolet not produced a one-handed save to keep out Olivier Giroud's header at the start of the second half.
But Liverpool never looked like mounting a comeback, not even after Henderson squeezed a penalty past goalkeeper David Ospina in the 76th after Sterling was fouled by Bellerin.
Then Can received a second yellow card for fouling substitute Danny Welbeck from behind before Giroud completed a counterattack in stoppage time to make it nine goals in nine games in all competitions.