Arsenal’s thumping win at Emirates Stadium leaves Liverpool’s Champions League ambitions in tatters
London: Arsenal dealt Liverpool’s Champions League qualification hopes a massive blow on Saturday with a stylish 4-1 victory that lifted Arsene Wenger’s side to second place in the Premier League.
Arsenal scored three times in a dizzying eight-minute spell immediately prior to half-time at the Emirates Stadium, with Hector Bellerin, Mesut Ozil, from a direct free-kick, and Alexis Sanchez on target.
Striker Olivier Giroud celebrates after scoring Arsenal’s fourth goal against Liverpool at London’s Emirates Stadium on Saturday. Pic/Getty Images
Jordan Henderson hit back with a 76th-minute penalty after Bellerin felled Raheem Sterling, but after Emre Can was sent off for two bookable offences, Olivier Giroud slammed home Arsenal’s fourth in stoppage time.
“It was a very great day,” said Arsenal manager Wenger. “It was an important game today. We had the chance to make a difference with Liverpool and we took the chance. Their keeper kept them in the game and then they had a good chance before we scored, but we were focussed, clinical, and I think if you look at the table and see the number of goals we score, it’s no coincidence.”
Gunners go second
Arsenal moved above champions Manchester City, who visit Crystal Palace tomorrow, and closed to within four points of leaders Chelsea, who have two games in hand, including their clash against Stoke City late on Saturday.
Thanks to the defeat, Liverpool were left seven points below the top four after United beat Aston Villa 3-1.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers admitted that it would be “very, very difficult” for his side to secure a place in the top four and return to the Champions League. “It was a game we needed to take something from,” he told BT Sport. “Today is a big disappointment, but we didn’t defend well enough in key moments of the game.”
City slipped to fourth place after United sank Villa to claim third place.
United third after Herrera, Rooney strikes
Ander Herrera (right) celebrates scoring United’s third goal against Aston Villa with Juan Mata at Old Trafford on Saturday. PIC/afP
Manchester: Ander Herrera and Wayne Rooney scored as Manchester United beat Aston Villa 3-1 at Old Trafford on Saturday to leapfrog Manchester City into third place in the Premier League. Christian Benteke’s 80th-minute goal for Villa, a weak shot that crept beneath David de Gea, set up an uncomfortable finale for United, but Herrera completed his brace in added time to seal a fifth straight win. However, the goal of the day was produced by Rooney. Substitute Angel di Maria’s cross was behind Rooney, but the England man showed superb footwork to bring the ball down, swivel and hook it into the top-left corner with his trusty right foot. The result lifted United above City, who visit Crystal Palace tomorrow, and Louis van Gaal’s side seem increasingly likely to claim a place in next season’s Champions League.
Spotlight on Sterling
Raheem Sterling was under the spotlight on Saturday after an interview on his Liverpool future where he revealed turning down a new £100,000-a-week deal at Anfield and admitting that links to Saturday’s opponents Arsenal were “quite flattering”. PA Sport assesses his Saturday performance:
>> Goal threat
Sterling so nearly had a seventh EPL goal to his name in the 20th minute when Lazar Markovic broke and unselfishly passed, only for the over-hit ball to evade him. Sterling’s first attempt of the afternoon came in the minutes which followed, dragging across the face of goal, as Liverpool threatened to take the lead. It was his directness that earned the penalty which allowed Jordan Henderson to score a consolation penalty.
Sterling was isolated early on but grew into proceedings as those behind him began to settle. His quick feet and vision were causing the hosts problems, producing several clipped balls into dangerous areas. Sterling moved to the left following Daniel Sturridge’s introduction, allowing him to influence the play more effectively.
>> Body language
Sterling appeared to brush off the controversy of recent days, showing no ill-effects of the public rancour. Pressing from the start, he looked up for the battle and showed bravery in battling with Arsenal’s giant defender Per Mertesacker. Even when he was clattered, like he was after just 10 minutes by Laurent Koscielny, Sterling was quickly back to his feet.