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Arsenal guns down Liverpool

Arsenal delivered a brutal lesson in fast-paced Premier League football to beat Liverpool 4-1 on Saturday, maintaining its faint title aspirations and almost certainly dashing its opponents’ hopes of a top-four finish.

Elsewhere, Wayne Rooney scored from an exquisitely executed volley as Manchester United beat struggling Aston Villa 3-1 to enhance its chances of Champions League qualification. The captain’s eye-catching goal overshadowed two from Ander Herrera as United climbed into third place above Manchester City, which is at Crystal Palace on Monday.

United was leading through Herrera’s first-half goal when Rooney used his outstretched left foot to bring down Angel Di Maria’s cross and then used his other boot to volley the ball into the net in the 79th. United ‘keeper David de Gea made a rare mistake a minute later, allowing Christian Benteke’s shot to go through his legs, but Herrera sidefooted in the third in stoppage time.

Villa is three points above the relegation zone.

Earlier, Arsenal fizzed with intent and three goals in eight first-half minutes from Hector Bellerin, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez and a late curler from Olivier Giroud secured a 10th Premier League win in 11 matches. Liverpool, which netted a penalty through Jordan Henderson before Giroud’s effort, now looks out of the running in the battle for Champions League qualification after a second consecutive defeat.

While much of the pre-match debate had focused on Liverpool forward Raheem Sterling’s on-going contract impasse, within minutes of kick off it was clear that more pressing issues lay with the visitor’s defence.

Liverpool’s back-three spent the opening minutes regularly gifting the ball to the host in dangerous areas and its only chance of the half was inexplicably wasted by Lazar Markovic. The breakthrough came after 37 minutes when Bellerin was allowed time to cut inside the Liverpool box before curling a superb finish past Simon Mignolet.

Given its defending on the day it seemed remarkable that it was the first goal Liverpool had conceded on the road in more than nine hours after keeping six successive clean sheets.

Arsenal doubled the lead two minutes later when Ozil stepped up to curl a free kick around the wall and into the net and Sanchez smashed home from outside the box to make it 3-0.

Giroud added a coat of gloss when he curled in from 20 metres in stoppage time.

The results: Arsenal 4 (Bellerin 37, Ozil 40, Sanchez 45, Giroud 90+1) bt Liverpool 1 (Henderson 76-pen); Everton 1 (Jagielka 16) bt Southampton 0; Leicester 2 (Cambiasso 12, King 86) bt West Ham 1 (Kouyate 32); Manchester United 3 (Herrera 43, 90+2, Rooney 79) bt Aston Villa 1 (Benteke 80); Swansea 3 (Ki 18, Gomis 37, 90+1) bt Hull 1 (McShane 50); West Brom 1 (Anichebe 58) lost to QPR 4 (Vargas 15, Austin 37, Zamora 43, Barton 90+5). — Agencies


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