Arsenal has thumped Liverpool 4-1 in a dominant display in North London, but Chelsea has restored its seven-point lead at the top of the Premier League with a 2-1 win over Stoke.
The Gunners dealt Liverpool’s Champions League qualification hopes a massive blow with a stylish victory that lifted Arsene Wenger’s side to second place.
Arsenal scored three times in a dizzying eight-minute spell immediately prior to half-time, with Hector Bellerin, Mesut Ozil, from a direct free-kick, and Alexis Sanchez on target.
Jordan Henderson hit back with a 76th-minute penalty, but after Emre Can was sent off for two bookable offences, Olivier Giroud slammed home Arsenal’s fourth in stoppage time.
“It was a very great day,” said Arsenal manager Wenger. “It was an important game today. We had the chance to make a difference with Liverpool and we took the chance.”
Beaten 2-1 by Manchester United before the international break, Liverpool has now lost twice in succession and the Reds were left seven points below the top four after United beat Aston Villa 3-1.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers admitted that it would be “very, very difficult” for his side – previously unbeaten in 13 games – to secure a place in the top four and return to the Champions League.
“It was a game we needed to take something from,” Rodgers told BT Sport. “Today is a big disappointment, but we didn’t defend well enough in key moments of the game.”
Chelsea weathered an extraordinary 65-yard goal by Charlie Adam to re-establish their seven-point lead at the Premier League summit with a 2-1 defeat of Stoke City on Sunday (AEST).
A twist appeared in store when Adam cancelled out Eden Hazard’s 39th-minute penalty in show-stopping fashion at Stamford Bridge.
A minute before half-time, the Scottish midfielder picked up a loose ball deep inside his own half and launched a raking shot with his left foot that Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois could only help into the net.
It was a goal that brought to mind David Beckham’s famous lob against Wimbledon in 1996 and Chelsea’s cause was further harmed when Diego Costa limped off with a hamstring injury 10 minutes after coming on at half-time.
But Loic Remy gave Chelsea victory in the 62nd minute, tapping home a pass from Hazard after Willian had intercepted Asmir Begovic’s throw, to leave Jose Mourinho’s side seven points clear with a game in hand.
United go third after win over Villa
Champions Manchester City slipped to fourth place ahead of their trip to Crystal Palace on Tuesday (AEST) after United sank Villa at Old Trafford to claim third place and move eight points clear of Liverpool.
Ander Herrera scored twice for the hosts and Wayne Rooney found the net with a stunning shot on the turn, while Christian Benteke replied for Villa with a tame effort that crept underneath David de Gea.
“We are still not certain about Champions League qualification – it is still a rat race,” said United manager Louis van Gaal, whose side have won five games in a row.
“But we have given a blow to Liverpool and Southampton also lost. It is a big gap. Now we have to wait to see if the gap is too big for Tottenham, too.”
While Tottenham Hotspur, a point behind Liverpool, visit Burnley on Sunday (AEST), sixth-place Southampton spurned a chance to break into the top five after Phil Jagielka’s 16th-minute goal saw the South Coast side beaten 1-0 at Everton.
Meanwhile, Queens Park Rangers and Leicester City both improved their chances of avoiding relegation with victories, the former winning 4-1 at West Bromwich Albion and the latter beating West Ham United 2-1.
Eduardo Vargas, Charlie Austin, Bobby Zamora, with an exquisite lob from wide on the right, and Joey Barton scored for QPR at The Hawthorns, with substitute Victor Anichebe heading in a consolation for West Brom.
Andy King gave Leicester victory in the 86th minute after Esteban Cambiasso’s thumping opener for the hosts had been cancelled out by West Ham midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate.
Leicester remains bottom, but is now four points from safety, while QPR closed to within a point of fourth-bottom Sunderland.
In the day’s other game, Bafetimbi Gomis scored twice to earn Swansea City a 3-1 win at home to Hull City, who had David Meyler sent off for a reckless foul on Kyle Naughton.