Three second-half goals, including two from sub Diogo Jota, strengthened Liverpool’s top-four hopes with a dominant 3-0 win over a tame Arsenal at the Emirates.
James Milner missed the best chance of a dominant but goalless first half for Liverpool, with a shot-shy Arsenal registering just one attempt in the first hour, described by Sky Sports’ Gary Neville as “shabby” throughout a poor home performance.
Liverpool found their clinical edge after the hour mark, taking the lead through sub Jota’s header from a superb Trent Alexander-Arnold cross (64), a much-needed assist having been left out of the recent England squad.
Mohamed Salah made it 2-0 four minutes later, stealing the ball from Gabriel in the box before slotting through Bernd Leno’s legs, moments before Gabriel’s lax pass was feasted upon by Alexander-Arnold as Jota devoured the chance to smash home eight yards out (82) following touches from Salah and Sadio Mane.
The result means Liverpool are now just two points behind fourth-placed Chelsea with eight games remaining, while Arsenal stay ninth, just a point off the bottom half.
Arsenal Leno (5), Chambers (5), Holding (5), Gabriel (5), Tierney (6), Partey (4), Ceballos (3), Aubameyang (3), Odegaard (5), Pepe (5), Lacazette (5)
Subs: Soares (5), Elneny (5), Martinelli (NA)
Liverpool: Alisson (7), Alexander-Arnold (8), Phillips (7), Kabak (7), Robertson (6), Fabinho (8), Milner (7), Thiago (6), Mane (7), Firminho (6), Salah (7)
Subs: Jota (8), Wijnaldum (NA), R Williams (NA)
Man of the match: Fabinho
How Liverpool started top-four charge in style at Emirates
Regardless of the stature of these two sides, this was ninth versus seventh in the Premier League, and Arsenal in particular resembled a mid-table outfit as they served up a limp show.
Mikel Arteta fielded Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Nicolas Pepe and Alexandre Lacazette together for the first time this season, the three most expensive players in Arsenal’s history, with Jurgen Klopp saying before the game the Gunners had “put everything they have offensively” on the pitch. But Arsenal’s approach was anything but offensive from minute one to 90.
On the day it was confirmed that it was mathematically impossible for Liverpool to retain the Premier League title, Klopp’s side dominated the ball, with Arsenal registering just one shot on goal in the first 61 minutes.
Arsenal’s four touches in the Liverpool box in the first half was also their fewest in a PL home game since March 2014.
And Liverpool’s second came shortly after as Salah, chasing down Gabriel from man-of-the-match Fabinho’s pass, stole the ball from the Arsenal defender in the box as he looked to slide in and clear, allowing Salah to bear down on goal and slot through Leno’s legs from eight yards.
With Arsenal crumbling, Salah should have had his second and Liverpool’s third as he latched onto Firmino’s ball between the centre-backs, but his half volley was beaten away well by Leno.
But Liverpool did get their third as Gabriel’s poor pass out from defence was intercepted by Alexander-Arnold; Salah took over, squaring from the right for Mane, whose hold-up allowed Jota to smash into the net from close range.
Mane almost added a fourth in injury time as Leno denied him at his feet, but this was Liverpool back to their imperious best for one game at least as they look to achieve the bare minimum of a Champions League in this most humbling of seasons.
⏱️ Minutes per goal in @premierleague this season (minimum 3 goals):
100 – DIOGO JOTA
112 – Gareth Bale
123 – Jesse Lingard
130 – MOHAMED SALAH pic.twitter.com/3FotBLCjTJ
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) April 3, 2021
What the managers said…
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta: “We completely deserved to lose the game. They were better in every department and deserved to win the game with the margin they had, or even more. I accept responsibility for the way we played today.
“They made the right decisions, we didn’t. It is my fault. I have to set the team up to perfom in a different way and that is it. Congratulations to Liverpool because they were exceptional today. That showed the difference between the two teams – that when they play at that level, the margin is incredibly high.
“I don’t have to use any excuses – that we don’t have five or six players – the standards are much higher at this football club and I have to get them to perform at that level. It was technical as well. We gave every ball away and could not put three passes together. The basics weren’t there today. If you do that against this kind of opponent, you get punished like we have.
“At the moment I am in shock. I didn’t expect that because of the way the team trained. It is a challenge. A challenge brings an opportunity. If you have courage and you represent a club like this, you have to stand up and take it.”
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp: “Very good. A top, top game. Our counter-pressing was at the highest level which is very important. In general, the defending from the whole team looked exactly as it should. I’m really happy with the whole performance and more so the three points.
“It is the first time in the season – Neco Williams came back and had a slight knock – but apart from the long-term injuries, all the boys involved tonight were fit and in really good shape. We could have lined up with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, or Naby Keita or Xherdan Shaqiri is in really good shape, so these kinds of things, it is the first time we have had that. Hopefully that will help us.”
Arsenal now host Slavia Prague in their Europa League quarter-final first leg at 8pm on Thursday, before going to Sheffield United at 7pm on Sunday in the Premier League.
Liverpool go to Real Madrid at 8pm on Tuesday in the Champions League quarter-final first leg, and then host Aston Villa at 3pm on Saturday, live on Sky Sports Premier League.