Liverpool smash Arsenal as Reds go nine points clear


Roberto Firmino was at his ruthless best as he scored his first
Premier League hat-trick to inspire a 5-1 demolition of Arsenal at
Anfield and put Liverpool nine points clear at the summit after
Tottenham’s defeat to Wolves.

The visit of Unai Emery’s men was seen as a potentially
troublesome fixture, but the Reds made light work of them, with all
of their revered front three finding the net in a devastating
performance.

A chaotic five-minute spell in the first half saw Ainsley
Maitland-Niles put Arsenal ahead, before a quickfire Firmino brace
turned the score around. Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah ensured a
rampant Liverpool went into the break 4-1 up.

Liverpool’s pressure did not subside after half-time and Firmino
completed his treble from the spot 25 minutes from time, rounding
off a miserable day for the Gunners and increasing the heat on
Manchester City ahead of their meeting with Southampton on
Sunday.

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Arsenal went ahead in the 11th minute when Maitland-Niles tapped
in Alex Iwobi’s excellent left-wing cross.

But within five minutes, they were trailing.

Firmino equalised from close range after Stephan Lichtsteiner
played a clearance against Shkodran Mustafi.

The Brazilian then brilliantly slalomed past two defenders and
finished coolly into the bottom-right corner from 18 yards 90
seconds later.

Mane got in on the act just past the half-hour mark,
emphatically slamming home after a squared pass from Salah.

The Egyptian scored their fourth on the stroke of half-time,
converting a penalty after referee Michael Oliver adjudged he had
been tripped by Sokratis Papastathopoulos.

Liverpool remained dominant after the interval, but Aaron Ramsey
did go close to pulling one back – his shot deflecting away from
the target, before an offside Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang comically
put over from close range.

Firmino wrapped things up in the 65th minute, scoring from the
spot after Sead Kolasinac appeared to nudge Dejan Lovren to the
ground.

What does it mean? Liverpool flex their muscles ahead of
City showdown

An away game against City comes up next for Liverpool, and this
was certainly an impressive way to warm up for such an outing. With
their front three in fine form, Klopp got the perfect collective
performance to instil a bit of fear into Pep Guardiola’s men.

Firmino the star

All three of Liverpool’s frontline deserve honourable mentions,
but Firmino was the standout for his link-up play, clever
off-the-ball movement and three goals – the second of which being
brilliant. A flawless display.

Torreira chasing shadows

Young Uruguayan Lucas Torreira has made a strong start to life
in the Premier League, though he was miles off the pace at Anfield,
his usual snappy style nowhere to be seen.

Key Opta facts

What’s next?

Liverpool get 2019 started on January 3 with a trip to defending
champions City, in a game which will likely have a significant
bearing on where the Premier League title ends up this season.
Arsenal host Fulham on New Year’s Day.

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