Roberto Firmino scored a hat-trick as Liverpool came from a goal behind to thrash Arsenal 5-1 and end 2018 still unbeaten in the Premier League this season.
Consecutive defeats for nearest title rivals Manchester City and a shock home defeat for Tottenham against Wolves earlier in the day gave Jurgen Klopp’s high-flying men a perfect opportunity to further cement their league title aspirations and the Reds did it in style.
With City yet to play this week – they visit Southampton on Sunday – Liverpool now enjoy a 10 point lead at the top, which may well be cut down to seven before the mid-week clash between the league’s top two teams.
They started well against Arsenal – who had won just once in four matches – but allowed the visitors to take a lead 11 minutes later when a misplaced pass from Dejan Lovren allowed Alex Iwobi to find Ainsley Maitland-Niles at right far post. The homegrown youngster made no mistake from a hand-shaking distance.
But the lead could last for just three minutes and by the time half-time arrived they were already 4-1 down with Firmino scoring twice in 90 seconds brace before Sadio Mane Mae and Mohamed Salah added two more to complete a first-half turnaround at Anfield.
Firmino’s first came from defensive miscommunication on part of the visitors, while his second left the entire Arsenal defence on the floor. The Brazilian’s nimble footwork was a sight to behold as he took out both the Arsenal centre-backs before sending Lucas Torreira on the floor with sheer calmness and scoring to Bernard Leno’s right.
Salah then set the ball on a platter for Mane before earning a penalty off Sokratis and netting it home with a powerful strike.
The Egyptian had another opportunity to score from the spot in the second half after Sead Kolasinac shoved Lovren right in-front of the referee, who signalled a penalty. But Salah passed it on to Firmino to allow the Brazilian to complete a resounding hat-trick and become part of a list of very few players to have scored a hat-trick in a Liverpool-Arsenal game.
Salah remained stranded on 13 league goals, which is a joint highest with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal and Tottenham’s Harry Kane.
The defeat – they are winless against Liverpool in last seven appearances – left Arsenal on fifth with 38 points from 20 games and a newly resurgent Manchester United breathing on their back.