Soccer

Liverpool thrashes Arsenal 5-1

LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — Liverpool did not even need Luis Suarez to make Arsenal look less than ordinary as the Reds went on a scoring rampage — netting four times in the first 20 minutes on Saturday in a 5-1 Premier League thrashing of the Gunners.

Liverpool ended an eight-match unbeaten sequence for Arsene Wenger's team and cut its deficit to Arsenal to five points with the Merseyside club strengthening its fourth place. The result, combined with Chelsea's 3-0 win over Newcastle, knocked Arsenal off the top spot.

The victory, the first in the Premier League against Arsenal at Anfield since 2007, lifted the Reds back into the title race and boosted their hopes of finishing in the Top 4 as they look to secure Champions League football next season. Arsenal is now second, one point behind Chelsea.

Liverpool was irresistible in the early stages and all over Arsenal defenders, with every attack tearing apart the Gunners. Martin Skrtel scored in the first minute and doubled his team's lead nine minutes later. Raheem Sterling then made it 3-0 before Daniel Sturridge beat Wojciech Szczesny with a left-footed shot in the bottom corner. Sterling then completed a brace after half-time.

Mikel Arteta pulled one back for Arsenal from the penalty spot. "We went out there and did what the manager told us. The first 20 minutes were unbelievable and it's about the team. We worked as a team and we are getting results. It starts from the back and the boys have been excellent," Sturridge said.

Jack Wilshere played for Arsenal for the first time since the 4-0 win over Coventry in January while Liverpool named an unchanged side from the 1-1 draw with West Brom. The Reds made the best possible start as Skrtel made the most of Steven Gerrard's free kick from the left, diverting the ball into the back of the net after less than one minute.

The Reds continued at the same pace as Sturridge cut inside from the right and threatened Wojciech Szczesny with a fine shot as Arsenal struggled to keep the ball. Brendan Rodgers's team doubled its lead in the 10th minute when Skrtel converted another pinpointed free kick from Gerrard as he sent the ball into the top corner with a precise looping header.

Sturridge should have scored soon after but his chip over Szczesny ended wide. Arsenal players looked rattled when Luis Suarez sent a powerful volley crashing against the post four minutes later, with Kolo Toure failing to score off the rebound from close range.

But it was just a matter of time before Liverpool piled more misery on the visitors as another fast counterattack ended with Sterling making it 3-0 from Suarez's low cross in the 16th minute. Monopolizing the ball, Liverpool continued its rampage as Philippe Coutinho picked out Sturridge on the edge of the box with a through ball and the England striker made no mistake in beating Szczesny with a clinical finish.

Arsenal regained some composure but both Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were closed down every time they looked in good position as Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet enjoyed a quiet afternoon at Anfield.

Suarez had another opportunity just before halftime but his low shot ended inches wide. With Liverpool sitting back after the interval, Arsenal had more possession but the hosts did not ease up as Kolo Toure sent a lofted ball over the top for Sterling, who shot straight at Szczesny on his first attempt but scored from the rebound to compound Arsenal's woes.

With the Gunners fans starting to leave the stadium, Suarez went close with a brilliant attempt looking poised for the top corner but Szczesny dived well to deny his effort in the 63rd minute. Arsenal was then awarded a penalty after Gerrard chipped down Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right side of the box and Arteta cooly converted from the spot in the 69th.

Arsenal will be looking for revenge when the two sides meet a week on Sunday in the FA Cup fifth round at the Emirates.

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