Saturday, April 4, 2015 6:37 pm
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.
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 focused, clinical, and I think if you look at the table and see the number of goals we score, it’s no coincidence.”
Arsenal moved above champions Manchester City, who visit Crystal Palace on Monday, and closed to within four points of leaders Chelsea, who have two games in hand, beginning with Stoke City’s visit later on Saturday.
Beaten 2-1 by Manchester United before the international break, Liverpool have now lost twice in succession and 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 — previously unbeaten in 13 games — 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 at Old Trafford to claim third place and move eight points clear of Liverpool.
– Rooney stunner –
Ander Herrera drilled United in front in the 43rd minute from Daley Blind’s cut-back.
Wayne Rooney made it 2-0 with a glorious strike 11 minutes from time, killing substitute Angel di Maria’s cross with his left foot and slamming an unstoppable shot into the top-left corner with his right.
David de Gea uncharacteristically allowed Christian Benteke’s weak shot to creep beneath him at the other end a minute later, but Herrera steered home a pass from Juan Mata in added time to make victory secure.
“We are still not certain about Champions League qualification — it is still a rat race, said United manager Louis van Gaal, whose side have won five games in a row.
“But we have given a blow to Liverpool and Southampton also lost. It is a big gap. Now we have to wait to see if the gap is too big for Tottenham, too.”
While Tottenham Hotspur, a point behind Liverpool, visit Burnley on Sunday, Southampton spurned a chance to break into the top five after Phil Jagielka’s 16th-minute goal saw them beaten 1-0 at Everton.
Meanwhile, Queens Park Rangers and Leicester City both improved their chances of avoiding relegation with victories, the former winning 4-1 at West Bromwich Albion and the latter beating West Ham United 2-1.
Eduardo Vargas, Charlie Austin, Bobby Zamora, with an exquisite lob from wide on the right, and Joey Barton scored for QPR at The Hawthorns, with substitute Victor Anichebe heading in a consolation for West Brom.
Andy King gave Leicester victory at the King Power Stadium in the 86th minute after Esteban Cambiasso’s thumping opener for the hosts had been cancelled out by West Ham midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate.
Leicester remain bottom, but are now four points from safety, while QPR closed to within a point of fourth-bottom Sunderland.
In the day’s other game, Bafetimbi Gomis scored twice to earn Swansea City a 3-1 win at home to Hull City, who replied through Paul McShane before losing David Meyler to a straight red card for fouling Kyle Naughton.