Firmino and Mane shine to boost Reds' Champions League hopes
Goals from Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Georginio Wijnaldum helped Liverpool to a 3-1 win over Arsenal and into the top four.
Liverpool carve out crucial win over Arsenal
Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino both scored one and created another before Georginio Wijnaldum netted in stoppage time to help Liverpool to a crucial 3-1 win over Arsenal in the race for Champions League qualification.
Senegal international Mane handed Firmino the opener on a plate with a superb low cross early on, before the Brazilian returned the favour late in the first half.
Liverpool defence held firm
Danny Welbeck pulled one back after the break, but the Liverpool defence held firm and Wijnaldum made sure of a vital Premier League victory in the 91st minute.
Much was at stake at Anfield as Liverpool desperately needed a win to keep their Champions League ambitions alive after their 3-1 defeat at Leicester City on Monday.
Victory for Arsenal would have seen them move four points clear of Jurgen Klopp's men with a game in hand, as well as provide a much-needed confidence boost after recent big-game defeats against Chelsea and Bayern Munich.
Sanchez left out for Arsenal
Arsene Wenger had to make do without Mesut Ozil due to illness, though, while he left out top scorer Alexis Sanchez in favour of Olivier Giroud and Arsenal looked toothless going forward without their star men before the break.
They failed to create any chances of note in the opening 45 minutes and the game was all but decided by the time Sanchez came on at half-time, with Welbeck's goal not enough to spark a comeback.
Saturday's victory sees Liverpool leapfrog Arsenal and Manchester City into third place with 52 points from 27 games, while Wenger's men sit fifth.
Liverpool made an encouraging start and needed just nine minutes to open the scoring via Firmino. Mane was at the heart of it with a low cross from the right, Philippe Coutinho surprised Hector Bellerin with the stepover and the former Hoffenheim man slammed home from close range.
10: Mane drills the ball across the face of goal and Firmino smashes it in! ⚽💨— Liverpool FC (@LFC) 4 March 2017
The hosts continued to dominate proceedings in the opening stages and Coutinho nearly doubled their lead with a powerful long-range strike after some good work from Wijnaldum, goalkeeper Petr Cech getting a hand to the ball to push it over for a corner.
Bad to worse for Arsenal
Things went from bad to worse for Arsenal in the closing stages of the first half and Mane doubled Liverpool's lead in the 40th minute after a fine team move. James Milner played in Wijnaldum down the left, who in turn reached Firmino. The Brazilian unselfishly laid it off for Mane and the winger beat Cech with a low shot.
Coutinho spurned a chance to make it three just minutes later when a deflected Adam Lallana strike dropped straight at his feet, but he failed to beat Cech with his weak attempt from close range.
Arsenal nearly found a way back in early in the second half when Giroud forced Simon Mignolet into a sublime save with a powerful header from the centre of the box, the Liverpool goalkeeper palming the ball against the crossbar before collecting it.
Welbeck did pull one back minutes later after a delicate throughball from substitute Sanchez, coolly chipping the ball over Mignolet for his first Premier League goal since April 2016.
No equaliser for Arsenal
Wenger brought on Theo Walcott and Lucas Perez in an attempt to force an equaliser - with the Arsenal fans seemingly unhappy to see Welbeck hooked - but the Frenchman's tactic failed to pay off as Wijnaldum added a third for Liverpool to put the result beyond doubt after being set up by Divock Origi, who had previously already hit the upright.
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