Roberto Firmino completes hat-trick as Klopp’s men run riot against hapless Gunners

By Mirror: Saturday, December 29th 2018 at 22:32 GMT +3 | Football
Liverpool celebrate on their way to thrashing Arsenal (Image: Action Plus via Getty Images)

If Liverpool win at Manchester City on Thursday night then Pep Guardiola might be tempted to tie red and white ribbons around the Premier League trophy and let Jurgen Klopp take it home.

The rampant Reds will travel to the Etihad at least seven points clear of the champions after this Anfield wonder show.

And if City fail to win at Southampton on Sunday, then a Liverpool victory in Manchester before the Christmas lights have been taken down would surely start the longest title parade in history.

There have been many false dawns over the Mersey since Liverpool were last crowned champions almost 29 years ago.

But the daunting prospect for City, Tottenham and the rest this time is that Klopp's side show absolutely no sign of feeling the pace.

Their response at falling behind to Ainsley Maitland-Niles first Arsenal goal after 10 minutes was to spend the rest of the first half blowing the Gunners apart.

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Roberto Firmino scored twice in the five minutes after Maitland-Niles' strike.

And the other two members of Klopp's Fab Three also got in on the act, with Sadio Mane and Mo Salah both beating Bernd Leno before the players had gone in for a half-time cuppa.

Firmino completed his hat-trick after the break, before the home side eased back on the throttle with the champions in mind.

With Spurs doing what Spurs tend to do by losing at home to Wolves, it means Liverpool are nine points clear of the Londoners and 10 ahead of City.

Klopp made his intentions clear – asking Xherdan Shaqiri to operate behind Salah, Mane and Firmino.

Liverpool had won all eight of the Premier League games they had played since Alexandre Lacazette's late equaliser denied them three points at the Emirates in November.

Lacazette was on the bench this time. And Mesut Ozil was back in London nursing a knee injury, so boss Unai Emery opted to use Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as a lone striker.

The Gunners, themselves beaten just once in 17 league outings, knew a first win at Anfield in six years would lift them into fourth.

They drew first blood when Alex Iwobi worked a smart exchange of passes with Aaron Ramsey before sending over a delicious cross to the far post.

There was 21-year-old Maitland-Niles to slide in and gobble up the chance.

Then the curtain went up on the Bobby Firmino show.

Liverpool got a huge slice of luck when Granit Xhaka slid into halt Salah and Stephen Lichtsteiner slammed his attempted clearance into team-mate Shkodran Mustafi to present Firmino with a chance so easy that he walked the ball home without even looking at the goal.

But the Brazilian needed no help two minutes later when he found himself running at Arsenal's retreating defence after Mane had dispossessed Lucas Torreira.

Firmono slalomed past Mustafi and Sokratis before leaving Bernd Leno stranded with a glorious finish into the bottom corner.

Liverpool cut the visitors open to score again in the 32nd minute.

Andrew Robertson's sweeping switch of play found Salah lurking in the inside-left position after Arsenal had cleared Shaqiri's corner.

And the Egyptian caressed the perfect volleyed pass into the path of Mane to hook home from six yards.

Salah got in on the fun on the stroke of half-time when he wriggled past Sokratis and tumbled over as the Greek defender grappled with his shoulder.

Referee Michael Oliver had no doubts it was a penalty and Salah rammed his 16th goal of the season past Leno.

Sokratis felt Salah had taken a dive and had to be prevented from tangling with the striker again in the tunnel at the break.

It was about the only time an Arsenal defender showed any fight.

Salah had the chance to add to his tally in the 65th minute after Sead Kolasinac had barged over Dejan Lovren.

But after deciding that Firmino deserved to take home the match ball, the Brazilian stepped up to send Leno the wrong way.

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