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    Liverpool 3-1 Arsenal Match Report

    Liverpool bounced back from their disappointing performance against Leicester last Monday with a well-deserved win against top-four rivals Arsenal at Anfield.

    Goals from Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane put The Reds firmly in control following a dominant first-half display but they had to withstand a fightback after the break in order to secure all three points.

    The Gunners, who surprisingly dropped their top-scorer Alexis Sanchez to the bench, responded after half-time through a Danny Welbeck strike before Georginio Wijnaldum sealed the match in stoppage time.

    The result allowed Liverpool to steal a march on their opponents in the race for a top-four spot, with The Reds now two points clear of the fifth-place Gunners having played one more game.

    Liverpool went into the contest having won only one of their previous seven Premier League matches, while Jurgen Klopp described the loss to Leicester City five days earlier as the "worst game we've played this season."

    The Reds were still without captain Jordan Henderson and centre-back Dejan Lovren through injury, while Daniel Sturridge had recovered from illness but was sidelined through a hip injury.

    Arsenal also found themselves in desperate need of a morale-boosting win following recent defeats to Watford, Chelsea and Bayern Munich and knew that victory at Anfield would extend the lead over their opponents in the table.

    Arsene Wenger, who was already without the services of Mesut Ozil through illness, elected to start without 17-goal top scorer Alexis Sanchez, while centre-back Laurent Koscielny returned from a hamstring injury.

    It was Liverpool who started the match on the front-foot, with Klopp's side producing a level of tempo and intensity that was unrecognisable from the flat performance five days earlier against Leicester.

    The Reds allowed the visitors no time and space on the ball due to a relentless display of pressing, with Adam Lallana leading by example and Sadio Mane on-hand to stretch the Arsenal defence at every opportunity.

    It took only nine minutes for the home side's bright start to be rewarded, with Roberto Firmino scoring only the fourth goal in his last 20 matches with a clinical finish from close-range.

    The Brazilian found himself unmarked inside the Arsenal penalty area after Mane's drilled cross had been dummied by Philippe Coutinho and he rifled the ball into the roof of the net from five yards.

    Liverpool looked like scoring everytime they put the visiting defence under pressure and could have doubled their lead had Petr Cech not been alert enough to tip Philippe Coutinho's pile-driver over the crossbar at full-stretch.

    Arsenal were unable to create any sustained periods of pressure or clear-cut chances during the first-half but managed to stay in the contest for 40 minutes until the home side's dominance was finally reflected on the scoreline.

    As a sea of Arsenal defenders were attracted to Roberto Firmino inside the penalty area, it allowed Sadio Mane oceans of space to clinically beat Cech from 12 yards following the Brazilian's clever pass.

    The scoreline could have been even more emphatic in Liverpool's favour prior to half-time had Coutinho been able to generate the pace or accuracy to beat Cech from close-range after he had deftly controlled Lallana's deflected pass.

    Arsenal's underwhelming first-half display prompted Wenger to introduce Alexis Sanchez into proceedings, in-place of Francis Coquelin, and the change opened up pockets of space in Liverpool's defence that had been absent before the break.

    The visitors started the second-half with a much faster tempo, with Sanchez immediately involved in the action, and it wasn't long before The Gunners created their best chance of the match.

    After some quick and incisive passing, Nacho Monreal's left-footed cross found the head of Olivier Giroud but the Frenchman's effort was tipped onto the crossbar by the quick reflexes of Simon Mignolet.

    Arsenal's improvement after the break was rewarded after 57 minutes when a sweeping counter-attack, which started deep inside their own half, allowed Danny Welbeck the chance to halve the away side's deficit.

    The former Manchester United striker was set-up by Sanchez's cleverly-weighted pass before he slotted the ball past the onrushing Mignolet from a tight angle.

    The goal gave Arsenal the momentum for the remainder of the half but it was Liverpool who continued to create the better opportunities with Coutinho and Joel Matip both unable to supply the finishing touches.

    Coutinho's cross was fired over his own crossbar by Shkodran Mustafi from five yards, while Joel Matip was unable to generate the required pace on his header to trouble Cech following the Brazilian's inswinging free-kick.

    The biggest controversy of the match occurred with 15 minutes left as referee Robert Madley refused to give Emre Can a second yellow card after he made an ill-timed lunge on Theo Walcott without taking any of the ball.

    The home side then came close to sealing the win as James Milner's inswinging free-kick was met by Divock Origi's glancing header but the ball struck the right-hand post.

    As Arsenal piled men forward in the dying minutes in a desperate attempt to score an equaliser, they were exposed by gaps left at the back as Liverpool looked to seal the win on the counter-attack.

    Alexis Sanchez was teed-up by Alex Iwobi from 15 yards but the Chilean's effort was superbly blocked by Joel Matip, which led to a Liverpool breakaway instigated by Adam Lallana.

    Lallana set Divock Origi free on the right wing, with the Belgian international's pinpoint cross picking out Georginio Wijnaldum who swept the ball past Cech into the bottom corner from 12 yards.

    It set the seal on another impressive performance for Liverpool against a top-six club after wins earlier in the season against Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City, while the victory completed a first double over Arsenal for 17 years.

    Like in the win against Tottenham three weeks earlier, the match was won in the first-half with a vibrant and energetic display where the home side's pressing forced their opponents into making errors all over the pitch.

    Adam Lallana was back to his brilliant best with a virtuoso display of tireless closing-down and creativity from midfield, which epitomised everything that was good about his side on the day.

    Jurgen Klopp's team must now ensure that the high levels they have set against top-six sides is maintained for the remainder of the season against the lesser teams if they are to qualify for next season's Champions League.

    The result temporarily allowed Liverpool to climb into third position, above The Gunners, but Manchester City's 2-0 win against Sunderland on Sunday meant that the Anfield side ended the weekend in fourth position.

    The Reds could increase their lead over Arsenal to five points with victory at home to Burnley on Sunday afternoon, although they would have played two more games.

    Arsene Wenger's team, meanwhile, failed once again to beat a top-six side away from home and missed a golden opportunity to open up a four-point gap over Liverpool in the league while having a game in hand.

    The Gunners never recovered from a slow start and were very much second-best over the course of the match despite a much-improved performance following the introduction of Alexis Sanchez.

    Another top-four finish and success in the FA Cup remain the only realistic targets for the club this season, with Chelsea extending their lead over their London rivals to 16 points after Monday night's 2-1 win against West Ham.

    Arsenal, who drop to fifth in the league, entertain Lincoln City in the FA Cup this weekend and do not return to Premier League action until March 18.
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    Item Reviewed: Liverpool 3-1 Arsenal Match Report Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Richard Tufft
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