LONDON (AFP) – Liverpool punished Arsene Wenger s selection gamble with a crucial 3-1 win over spluttering Arsenal 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.
“It was one of the best games we ve played because of the strength of the opponent,” Klopp said.
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.
“I felt the strikers suffered in the first half and we didn t dominate in the midfield. It is always debatable,” Wenger said when asked if the Sanchez move had backfired.