LONDON – Liverpool re-energised their Premier League title challenge with a magnificent 5-1 rout of sorry leaders Arsenal on an afternoon of one-way traffic at Anfield on Saturday.
Brendan Rodgers’s rampant side struck four times in the first 20 minutes, as Arsenal saw a run of 10 games without defeat in all competitions torn to shreds in brutal fashion.
Martin Skrtel scored twice in 10 minutes to spark the rout, with Raheem Sterling claiming a brace and Daniel Sturridge also finding the net before Mikel Arteta replied for Arsene Wenger’s humbled Arsenal.
The one-sided victory lifted fourth-place Liverpool to within five points of Arsenal, a week before the sides are due to meet again at the Emirates Stadium in the fifth round of the FA Cup.
Liverpool’s performance, meanwhile, suggested that they cannot be discounted from the title picture despite media projections of a three-horse race between Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City.
Seeking to return to winning ways after a 1-1 draw at West Bromwich Albion last weekend, Liverpool went ahead inside a minute when Skrtel kneed Steven Gerrard’s free-kick past Wojciech Szczesny from close range.
The same combination doubled Liverpool’s lead in the 10th minute, with Skrtel stooping to guide a looping header into the top-left corner from Gerrard’s right-wing corner.
Sturridge lobbed wide and Luis Suarez hit the post with a blistering half-volley from outside the box before Sterling tucked in a low cross from Suarez to make it 3-0.
The fourth arrived in the 20th minute, Sturridge steering the ball past Szczesny from Philippe Coutinho’s delicately weighted pass as Arsenal’s travelling fans looked on in disbelieving horror.
Sterling scored at the second attempt in the 52nd minute to tighten the screw yet further, before Arteta netted from the penalty spot in the 69th minute after Gerrard was penalised for felling Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Arsenal’s dejection could be compounded later on Saturday as both Manchester City and Chelsea will overtake them if they win their respective matches.
Chelsea, who won 1-0 at City on Monday, host Newcastle United, while City visit Norwich City.
In the late game, meanwhile, Swansea City tackle local rivals Cardiff City in their first match since Michael Laudrup was sacked as manager.