Arsenal 4-1 Liverpool: Olivier Giroud scores again as Arsenal dent Liverpool top-four hopes
By Jack Wilkinson
Last Updated: 05/04/15 7:45am
Arsenal dealt Liverpool’s top-four hopes a substantial blow with an emphatic 4-1 victory at the Emirates Stadium.
Three goals in the final eight minutes of the first half stunned Liverpool as Hector Bellerin’s curled strike on 37 minutes, Mesut Ozil’s exquisite free-kick three minutes later and Alexis Sanchez’s thunderous effort on the verge of half-time took the game away from Brendan Rodgers’ side.
Jordan Henderson converted a penalty 15 minutes from time after Raheem Sterling was brought down by Bellerin but Emre Can’s dismissal for a second bookable offence 10 minutes later all-but ended the contest.
Olivier Giroud bagged his seventh strike in six Premier League games in stoppage-time with a well-taken, left-footed effort as Arsenal moved up to second in the table.
The result, which leaves Arsenal four points behind leaders Chelsea, is the Gunners’ seventh consecutive league victory as well as their seventh consecutive win in all competitions.
Liverpool, who suffered back-to-back defeats for the first time since November, remain fifth, five points adrift of Manchester United having played a game more.
Despite the recent scrutiny surrounding his contract negotiations, Rodgers started Sterling, but it was the absence of captain Steven Gerrard and Martin Skrtel, who both started three-match bans, which had the greater impact as the visitors made a nervy start.
Santi Cazorla drew a fine save from Simon Mignolet with just three minutes on the clock and the Belgian was called into action two minutes later to deny Aaron Ramsey after Kolo Toure was dispossessed. The Ivorian, however, was on hand to atone for his initial error as he denied Cazorla converting the rebound.
Having weathered the early Arsenal onslaught, Liverpool began to dictate the pace of the game and created two gilt-edged chances to take the lead.
After being put through on goal by Philippe Coutinho, Lazar Markovic opted to square the ball to Sterling but his pass was ill-judged and over-hit allowing Arsenal to clear.
Sterling then squandered a chance himself as he dragged a shot past the target having done well to shake off Laurent Koscielny’s challenge.
Having kept his side in the game in the opening exchanges, Mignolet was helpless as Arsenal struck three times before the break.
First Bellerin cut in off the right flank, stepped inside Alberto Moreno’s weak challenge before producing a fine left-footed strike to break the deadlock.
It was two three minutes later as Ozil, who returned to the starting line-up after recovering from illness, found the same corner of Mignolet’s goal with a stunning free kick from 25 yards.
Sanchez blasted Arsenal’s third in emphatic style on the stroke of half-time as his half-volley whistled past Mignolet before nestling in the back of the net.
The Gunners created the first clear chance of the second half 10 minutes after the interval but Mignolet was on hand to palm Giroud’s effort over.
His opposite number, David Ospina, was called into action for the first time two minutes later as Can’s near-post effort was tipped out for a corner.
Liverpool were then handed a glimmer of hope when referee Anthony Taylor penalised Bellerin for a clumsy foul on Sterling, and Henderson's strike from 12 yards escaped Ospina’s clutches.
But hopes of a comeback were dashed when Can, who had seen yellow for a challenge on Cazorla and subsequent dissent, lunged in on substitute Welbeck and was sent from the field.
Giroud was not to be denied as he rifled home the fourth from the edge of the area in the closing stages.
Arsenal: Ospina (7), Bellerin (8), Mertesacker (7), Koscielny (8), Monreal, (7), Coquelin (7), Cazorla (8), Ramsey (7), Ozil (9), Sanchez (8), Giroud (7).
Used subs: Gabriel (6), Welbeck (6), Flamini (6).
Liverpool: Mignolet (8), Can (5), Toure (5), Sakho (6), Henderson (6), Lucas (6), Allen (7), Moreno (6), Markovic (5), Coutinho (6), Sterling (7).
Used subs: Sturridge (7).
Man of the Match: Mesut Ozil.