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February 8, 2014
• Anfield, Liverpool
Referee: M. Oliver
• Attendance: 44701
M. Škrtel 1', 10'
R. Sterling 16', 52'
D. Sturridge 20'
FULL-TIME: Liverpool 5-1 Arsenal. A stunning message of intent from Brendan Rodgers' side, who have put a shambolic Gunners side to the sword at Anfield. Martin Skrtel got the ball rolling inside a minute, before adding a second on 10 minutes. Further strikes from Raheem Sterling (2) and Daniel Sturridge rendered Mikel Arteta's consolation strike from the penalty spot irrelevant as the leaders were brutally punished.
90' + 2'
Cissokho advances down the left and whips in a low cross which Mertesacker deals with at the near post.
Oxlade-Chamberlain lines one up from range but sees his shot deflected away for a goal kick. The corner yields little from an Arsenal perspective, as they wait for the final whistle.
Ibe bursts past Mertesacker with considerable ease and is unlucky not to add his name to the scoresheet. It really could have been any score the hosts wanted it to be this afternoon.
Suarez, remarkably not on the scoresheet, is taken off, with Iago Aspas on to replace him for the final five minutes. Sterling goes clse to his hat-trick but Szczesny gets down well to parry.
Arsenal break again but the tempo of the game has died out considerably and it is petering out as a result. The Reds are more than content with their work already here.
Suarez is almost at it again, trapping the ball after an Arsenal set piece was cleared to him before nutmegging Gibbs and looking to send Sterling away, but Koscielny once again deals with the Uruguayan.
Suarez looks to add salt to the Gunners' wounds by running at Mertesacker and beating the German, but Koscielny does superbly to deal with the Uruguayan.
Arsenal passing the ball around nicely when they get the opportunity but the play is largely in their half and they are not threatening a second goal to add a bit of respect to the scoreline.
Gerrard comes off to a rapturous applause as he is replaced by young Jordon Ibe for the final 15 minutes of this one.
Rosicky gets an effort away at goal but it is blocked by last week's villain Toure, who has been superb this afternoon, before getting in the way of Sagna's low cross.
This time, Wilshere's shouts for a free-kick are more legitimate as Jon Flanagan goes over the ball with his studs on the midfielder's ankle. The set piece leads to a good save from Mignolet, who has at least been busier in this second half.
Wilshere and Gerrard are involved in a tussle which sees the Arsenal midfielder go down but it is nothing more than a shoulder barge from the Liverpool captain and he is fine to play on.
Penalty GoalMikel Arteta
GOAL! Arsenal have a consolation, and that's all it is as Mikel Arteta strokes home a penalty following Gerrard's lunge on Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Sturridge is now replaced by Joe Allen as manager Brendan Rodgers looks to wrap one of his star strikers in cotton wool ahead of the tests to come.
Sturridge is almost released by a wonderful Flanagan pass but is flagged for offside as is Suarez moments later as Liverpool go in search of more.
Suarez almost gets in on the act as his cunning free-kick has to be kept out by an alert Szczesny, who has been exposed time and time again but, to his credit, has pulled off a wonderful save to keep the score down as much as is possible against a rampant Reds attack.
Arsene Wenger makes a triple change, with Kieran Gibbs, Tomas Rosicky and Lukas Podolski all coming on for Monreal, the peripheral Özil and a beleagured Giroud. The move almost pays instant dividends, with Wilshere having his powerful shot superbly held by Mignolet.
Yellow CardJack Wilshere
Oxlade-Chamberlain is one player who will emerge from this debacle with some credit and he is the next to test Mignolet with a low effort which is held onto well by the Belgian. Wilshere enters the book for a cynical tackle on Sterling after a move breaks down seconds later.
Arsenal fashion a corner but there's no end result, as Giroud's flick-on is caught comfortably by Mignolet.
Koscielny is the latest Arsenal player to get frustrated and scythes down the effervescent Suarez, who had run off him.
GOAL! Sterling makes it five and Liverpool are continuing where they left off in the opening period. Toure's long ball picks the winger out and, having seen his first shot parried by Szczesny, he slams home the rebound.
Suarez whips in a set piece from around 25 yards out and Sturridge appears to get a flick on to it but a corner is awarded. The ball in from Gerrard, however, comes to nothing.
Wilshere is hauled down by Henderson to offer Arsenal a reasonable opportunity in shooting range but Cazorla's effort is wayward.
Yellow CardOlivier Giroud
Yellow CardJordan Henderson
Liverpool get us back underway here.
HALF-TIME: Liverpool 4-0 Arsenal. Yes you read that right, the Premier League leaders are four goals down at the interval. Two goals from Martin Skrtel, the first inside a minute, and further strikes from Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge have left the Gunners shellshocked. Worse still for the visitors, the hosts are worthy of their advantage.
45' + 1'
Suarez misses the chance to make it five with Sturridge in close proximity but, given the scoreline, I'm sure the England striker will not kick up too much of a fuss.
Wilshere is penalised for a foul on Coutinho after the latter's attempted flick over him before the Arsenal midfielder gets even more frustrated by leaving a tackle in on Steven Gerrard further upfield.
Giroud tries his utmost to force any sort of venture into Liverpool territory but his diagonal pass is easily cut out. It's all too predictable from the Gunners, who have been woeful in this opening period.
There is a stoppage in play as Suarez sportingly kicks the ball out if play following an altercation with Monreal that leaves the Spaniard down clutching his ankle on the turf.
Arsenal are having their first concerted spell of pressure in the Liverpool half but it amounts to nothing, as Gerrard tracks back to dispossess Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Per Mertesacker looks for Giroud with a speculative pass which looks like it may stay in but the Frenchman cannot quite reach out enough to prevent a goal-kick.
The Anfield crowd are continuing to roar their side on for a fifth goal but Arsenal manage to withstand the latest wave of pressure coming towards their goal and clear their lines.
Coutinho goes close to playing in an onrushing Jordan Henderson, but Laurent Koscielny is across to cover. Moments later Olivier Giroud works an opening but cannot get his shot away, with Gerrard mopping up and clearing the danger.
Jack Wilshere is unhappy with Coutinho's intense pressing on him and Arsenal, trying their utmost to engineer an opening, just cannot get out. The one-way traffic resumes apace here.
Liverpool are toying with Arsenal in possession and appear almost content with their four-goal advantage but the visitors just cannot get a foot on the ball. Wonderful to watch for the home faithful, less so for the away fans.
Liverpool hassle and harry Per Mertesacker and Bacary Sagna into an error and Sterling eventually nips in and runs at the Arsenal defence only to be dragged down by a frustrated Sagna.
Aly Cissokho almost gets in down the left but the ball eventually rolls out for a goal kick as Arsenal receive a bit of respite.
Liverpool just show no sign of letting up and this can be anything they want it to be. An utterly shambolic start from Arsenal has been punished brutally by a rampant Reds side.
GOAL! Liverpool have a fourth! Coutinho feeds Sturridge down the middle and the striker calmly slots home and Liverpool are in dreamland here.
It's quietened down a tad in the last couple of minutes but Arsenal are shellshocked here and it will take something extraordinary to prevent Liverpool from running in a hatful here.
GOAL! And now it's three for the home side as Sterling knocks home Luis Suarez's cross at the back post to stun the Arsenal supporters into silence and send the Liverpool faithful into raptures. The home side are full value for their lead in a breathless start.
POST! This is quite unbelievable, Luis Suarez has just smacked the upright with an outstanding long-range volley with Arsenal all over the place in defence. Kolo Toure somehow then steers the ball wide with the goal at his mercy and this game could already be wrapped up here.
Liverpool go close twice in quick succession and they are swarming all over Arsenal here. First, Philippe Coutinho picks out Sturridge but the striker's lobbed attempt rolls wide before Raheem Sterling's cross fails to pick out a teammate after finding himself in a promising position.
GOAL! Skrtel is at the double and Liverpool lead 2-0 at Anfield! Gerrard's corner in curls away from goal but the central defender is up and steers it home with a powerful header. What a start to the game here.
Monreal almost benefits from a superb Jack Wilshere pass and some poor defending from Jon Flanagan followed by even worse goalkeeping from Simon Mignolet as the ball ricochets back off the Arsenal left-back towards goal but Skrtel is there to clear.
Santi Cazorla wins a free-kick after a clash with Jon Flanagan and sends in a teasing delivery from the left which has to be cut out before an Arsenal player can get a head on it.
Now it's Daniel Sturridge who has a chance to get at the Arsenal defence as he skips past Nacho Monreal, but his shot is too close to Szczesny.
Arsenal almost steal an equaliser straight away as Santi Cazorla looks to feed Olivier Giroud but, attempting to cut inside, the Frenchman is blocked by Skrtel, who has been heavily involved already.
GOAL! Liverpool lead and it's Martin Skrtel who hands the Reds the lead in less than a minute! The Slovakian international turns home from close range past Wojciech Szczesny. What a start!
Arsenal kick off and we are underway here.
STAT: Meetings between these two sides have produced more hat-tricks (five) than any other Premier League fixture.
STAT: Liverpool have won just one of the last 13 league meetings between the two sides, although seven of those ended in draws (W1, D7, L5).
Although Liverpool may not win the Premier League this season, they could still have a major say in the destination of the title with Chelsea and Manchester City to travel to Anfield in April. Arsenal are first up and it's a must-win match for both sides.
Today's trip to Anfield marks the start of a crunch spell for the Gunners' season, with today's match followed by a four-game home run of Manchester United, Liverpool again (in the FA Cup), a mouthwatering Champions League tie with Bayern Munich and Sunderland. We should know in a fortnight's time whether their fight on multiple fronts is likely to bear fruit or not.
The squad is dovetailing nicely too - as one player drops out another comes in to replace them with a minimum of fuss. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's return - capped with a goalscoring brace against Crystal Palace last week - coincided with Theo Walcott's injury and is a prime example, although we still are yet to discover an answer to the oft-cried question 'what happens when Olivier Giroud gets injured?'
Arsenal haven't proven quite as potent up front, but their consistency and resilience in defence means the title challenge many continue to believe will filter away in the spring remains looking strong.
Indeed, the 2-0 defeat at the Emirates Stadium back in November was the last time the Reds failed to fire at all. In the 16 matches since, they've racked up an astonishing 45 goals - 24 of those from their lethal duo.
That includes today's opponents Arsenal - the only team to have prevented both Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge - or the 'SAS' from scoring in the last 12 league games they've played together.
Judging by recent results at least, the top four appears to be a realistic ambition for the Reds right now. Liverpool have beaten each of their rivals for fourth place so far, but have lost each of their encounters against the three teams above them albeit all away from home. Today provides a chance to alter that record.
With Everton and Tottenham in hot pursuit and Manchester United still in the mix it represents a difficult task for Liverpool, but one Rodgers and his charges believe they can meet.
Brendan Rodgers' ceiling of ambition has lowered somewhat in the space of a month having maintained in January that his side would "never give up the fight" for the Premier League title, with the Liverpool manager now accepting the goal this season must be to make the "big jump into the top four".
So Liverpool are unchanged for today's clash from last week's 1-1 draw at West Bromwich Albion, while Arsenal make just one change from the side that saw off Crystal Palace 2-0 last weekend as Lukas Podolski makes way for the returning Jack Wilshere.
And today's subs, starting with the hosts. Liverpool: Jones, Kelly, Moses, Allen, Alberto, Aspas, Ibe. Arsenal: Fabianski, Jenkinson, Gibbs, Rosicky, Podolski, Gnabry, Bendtner.
Arsenal: Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Arteta, Wilshere; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Özil, Cazorla; Giroud.
Here are today's teams, starting with Liverpool. Mignolet; Flanagan, Skrtel, Toure, Cissokho; Gerrard, Henderson; Sterling, Coutinho; Suarez, Sturridge.
Good afternoon and welcome to this live commentary of Liverpool v Arsenal at Anfield. Kick off is just 30 minutes away.
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