Monday, 10 February 2014

Fab Five Stuns Gunners

In what could be a season-changing week for Liverpool, they hosted the table toppers Arsenal with devastating consequences in the lunchtime kick-off.

Arsenal went into the tie as favourites after not losing at Anfield for seven years and on a current unbeaten run of ten games but they got an early blow as Liverpool took a shock lead with only a minute on the clock.

Suarez earned a free-kick down the left and up stepped Gerrard who swung in a superb cross which found Skrtel who powered the ball past Szczeny to a joyous roar from the Kop to give Liverpool a perfect start. Sturridge came close to making it 2-0  with a thundering effort that drew a reactive save from Szczesny but the Gunners could have drawn level when Skrtel saved Mignolet's blushes after the Belgian had parried into the path of Monreal who got a lucky bounce as the ball went towards the goal.

Skrtel completed a majestic first ten minutes with his second goal which came as Gerrard looped in a corner which the Slovakian collected and swept expertly past Szczesny as the home faithful erupted while the travelling Gunners sat stunned.

A lot of pre-match talk was about what Suarez would have done had he gone to Arsenal in the summer and he stunned them with a spectacular volley from 25 yards that cannoned off the post and achingly, Toure failed to convert the rebound past Szczesny.

After such a dominating win in the last home game, thoughts of a repeat gained pace as Liverpool struck a third as Suarez slipped a pass across the box to the onrushing Sterling who tapped home after a well-worked counter attack and despite having played only 16 minutes it looked like game over for Arsenal.

Three goals inside 16 minutes was something of a fantasy to the fans but it certainly wasn't a fantasy when three became four in the 20th minute as a miraculous pass from Coutinho split the Arsenal backline and Sturridge continued his stellar scoring spree as he hit past Szczesny to the disbelief of the travelling fans but the empahtic joy of the majority the Anfield crowd.

Arsenal needed a miracle comeback akin to that of Newcastle in their 4-4 meeting of 2011 but could have been further behind as Suarez hit wide as the half drew to a close but their hopes of Liverpool easing off the gas in the second period were false as Sterling hit his second and Liverpool's fifth right in front of an ecstatic Kop.

The England winger raced down the left and tested Szczesny who denied him only to see a second effort whistle past him and surely hand a vital and historic win for Liverpool. Arsenal made a triple change in order to prevent what was already a thrashing becoming a humiliation as Rosicky, Podolski and Gibbs entered the fray.

The changes bore fruit quickly as Arsenal changed their attacking technique and afforded Wilshere the chance to test Mignolet on the hour mark as he hit a dipping shot that the Belgian stopped to the anguish of the the Gunners number 10 and this prompted Suarez who was keen to prevent going a second successive game without scoring sweeping in a free-kick but to his dismay, Szczesny avoided conceding a sixth goal.

Surprisingly, the sixth and final goal of the game cam from Arsenal who were awarded a penalty after Gerrard brought down Oxlade-Chamberlain as the attacker headed for goal and the result saw Arteta clip the ball past the diving Mignolet to reduce the deficit to five meaning it would be sheer consolation for the league leaders.

Mignolet made up for the penalty miss as he denied Arteta from a well-worked set piece with Coutinho switching the focus onto Szczesny with a clever drive. Sterling came close to a famous hat-trick when he was denied by the leg of Szczesny but was able to celebrate minutes later when the final whistle blew as Liverpool dealt a crucial blow to those who have written them off for any title challenge this season and also to Arsenal's hopes of a perfect week.