LONDON, March 5: Liverpool put their disappointing defeat at Leicester behind them to move up to third place in the Premier League with a 3-1 home win over Arsenal, who dropped to fifth.
Arsene Wenger raised eyebrows when he left Alexis Sanchez on the bench, starting Danny Welbeck, while Mesut Ozil missed the match through illness.
The change did nothing for the Londoners as Liverpool produced a dominant first-half performance to take total control by the break thanks to goals from Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.
Jurgen Klopp’s side had been strongly criticised after their display at the King Power Stadium but outplayed Arsenal in an opening period of high intensity.
After Hector Bellerin had created a moment of early anxiety with a teasing cross, the home side grabbed the initiative.
And they were rewarded after nine minutes when Sadio Mane threaded the ball to the unattended Roberto Firmino, who blasted his finish high past Petr Cech.
Within moments, a Philippe Coutinho cross whizzed through the Arsenal area with no home player able to get the crucial touch.
There was a brief respite for Wenger’s side when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s ball towards Olivier Giroud was hesitantly dealt with by goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, but only a fine Cech save from Coutinho prevented Klopp’s side from doubling their lead on the half-hour.
And with a little under five minutes remaining until the break, Mane did double the advantage as he was given far too much space inside the area to control and finish after a fine move involving James Milner and Firmino.
Coutinho could have made it three when he produced a moment of sublime control inside the area but was only able to steer his attempted finish at Cech.
Wenger brought Sanchez on at the start of the second half and Arsenal almost found a way back into the game within moments as Migolet touched a powerful Giroud header onto the bar and held the rebound.
But they were back in contention after 56 minutes — and it was Sanchez who created the goal.
The Chile international threaded a superb pass through to Welbeck, who dinked a fine finish over Mignolet to halve the deficit.
The introduction of Sanchez had changed the pattern, and Arsenal threatened again when Bellerin got away down the right but his low cross evaded Giroud with nobody else able to get a touch.
As the game entered its final quarter of an hour, Wenger brought on Theo Walcott and Lucas Perez, with Giroud and Welbeck making way.
Coutinho blasted over from the edge of the box and Joel Matip misconnected with a free header as the home side sought the third goal that would put the result beyond doubt.
Klopp brought Divock Origi on for Coutinho with a little over 10 minutes remaining and the substitute almost got that goal, seeing his header from a free kick cannon back off the post.
Arsenal continued to press as the game entered its final moments, but after Alexis Sanchez had seen a late effort blocked by Matip Liverpool swept to the other end and Georginio Wijnaldum finished a lightning counter-attack involving Adam Lallan and Origi to crown an impressive evening’s work.ESPN