Arsenal’s Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka (2nd L) helps line up the wall during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on March 4, 2017. Liverpool won the game 3-1. PHOTO: Paul ELLIS / AFP
Liverpool punished Arsene Wenger’s selection gamble with a crucial 3-1 win over spluttering Arsenal, while Manchester United star Zlatan Ibrahimovic could face disciplinary action after appearing to elbow Bournemouth’s Tyrone Mings in a fiery 1-1 draw on Saturday.
Wenger sprang a major surprise by leaving Alexis Sanchez on the bench and the Chile forward was badly missed as Arsenal were blown away in the first half at Anfield.
With Mesut Ozil also absent, due to illness, Arsenal were ill-equipped to match Jurgen Klopp’s fired-up side, who took the lead in the ninth minute when Roberto Firmino met Sadio Mane’s cross with a cool finish at the far post after sloppy Arsenal defending.
There was worse to come for Wenger in the 40th minute as Firmino teed up the unmarked Mane and the Senegal winger drilled his shot past Petr Cech.
Wenger sent on Sanchez at half-time and inevitably he made an impact, sending an astute pass through to Danny Welbeck, whose deft chip reduced the deficit in the 57th minute.
But Georginio Wijnaldum finished a lethal Liverpool counter attack in the 90th minute to condemn Arsenal to a third defeat in their last four league matches.
Liverpool’s second win in their last eight league games lifted them above Arsenal and Manchester City into third place.
Wenger’s fifth placed side are now two points outside the top four and that gap will grow to five if City beat Sunderland on Sunday.