Liverpool 4 Arsenal 0

  • By: Paul Walker, PA Sport
  • Last Updated: May 22 2012, 10:00 BST

Liverpool stunned Arsenal with a four-goal blitz that secured third place in

the Premiership and dampened the new champions' celebrations.

Arsene Wenger sent out a shadow squad just three days after the crown was

claimed with a similar 4-0 demolition of Liverpool's relegation haunted rivals

Everton.

With the little matter of the FA Cup and the Double still to sort out, his

reasons for resting five players - added to the absence of injured pair Dennis

Bergkamp and Emmanuel Petit - were obvious.

So however much Liverpool point to the fact that they are the only team to do

the double over the champions this season, this has to go down as a hollow

victory.

Arsenal's travelling army chanted that they "only win when we have to" andthat they were not worried about the result.

Liverpool, though, clearly were.

They need a sound end to an erratic season to cover up the fact that they have

failed once again to show the sort of stunning consistency that has left the

Gunners holding the silverware.

It was party time for the Londoners, only soured by a strange running row

between Paul Ince, his England colleagues David Platt and Ian Wright, plus

striker Christopher Wreh.

For a short spell in the second half all manner of childishness came to the

surface and ended with an Ince tackle that saw Wright - so keen to prove his

fitness for the World Cup - carried off.

Just what managed to upset such experienced players on a night that stopped

just short of testimonial pace it was hard to imagine.

Earlier Ince had grabbed two goals in two minutes to put Liverpool in

command.

And when Michael Owen fired home his 18th league goal of the season five

minutes from the break, Liverpool were on the way to ending Arsenal's 18-match

unbeaten run which included a Premiership record of 10 straight victories before

arriving at Anfield.

Owen even had a penalty saved by Alex Manninger before the interval as

Liverpool threatened to run riot.

Arsenal's shadow side were given a guard of honour by the Liverpool team as

they ran out and a tremendous reception from the Anfield crowd, fans united in

their delight at the demise of Manchester United.

Such was the end-of-term feel about the proceedings that Liverpool's fans were

more occupied with the predicament of neighbours Everton than anything else.

A banner hung from the Kop proclaimed: "Agent Johnson, mission

accomplished," a wicked reference to Goodison chairman Peter Johnson's supposed

one-time support for Liverpool.

Another banner read: "Good luck Bolton." Clearly little sympathy for the

plight of the blue half of Merseyside!

There were more important things, though, from Liverpool's point of view.

They

needed a win to secure third spot and set about the evening looking sharp and

positive.

Steve McManaman, back after an ankle problem, switched wings constantly, Jamie

Carragher was incisive in midfield and Owen was willing to run at defenders.

Arsenal sat back, calm and controlled, and waited for the openings to appear.

But after an early spell of equality Liverpool took over and ended their home

campaign with a resounding victory.

Liverpool had looked the more enterprising, maybe not surprisingly after so

much celebrating down Highbury way.

And the home side took the lead after 27 minutes when McManaman's surging run

down the middle ended with a ball out to Jason McAteer and a cross that Owen

won, but lost control of, only for Ince to lash a low drive into the bottom

corner.

Two minutes later Ince struck again, this time from a yard. Stig Bjornebye's

corner was only half cleared to Oyvind Leonhardsen, Manninger spilled his shot

and when McManaman turned the ball back in Owen flicked it goalwards for Ince to

stab in from close range.

Ince could have had a hat-trick with a header inches over from another

Bjornebye corner after 34 minutes.

But Owen grabbed the third five minutes from the break when he volleyed in

from beyond the far post after a McManaman corner had been headed on by Ince.

The little England striker then saw his penalty saved after 43 minutes by

Manninger after McManaman had been sent tumbling by Matthew Upson.

Arsenal were never going to come back from all that, although they fought well

in the second period to rescue some pride.

Brad Friedel made a couple of smart saves from Wright before the veteran

Gunner was carted away, and five minutes from the end Leonhardsen hooked home

the fourth goal after Steve Bould had weakly headed out a cross.

Teams

Liverpool: Friedel, McAteer (Thomas 54), Babb, McManaman,

Leonhardsen, Harkness, Riedle (Murphy 90), Ince, Owen, Bjornebye,

Carragher.

Subs Not Used: James, Gudnason, Roberts.

Goals: Ince 28, 30, Owen 40, Leonhardsen 87.

Arsenal: Manninger, Dixon, Bould, Platt, Wright (Anelka 65),

Wreh (Mendez 70), Parlour (Vieira 65), Grimandi, Upson,

Boa Morte, Hughes.

Subs Not Used: Lukic, Marshall.Att: 44,417

Ref: A B Wilkie (Chester-le-Street).