Liverpool 4 Arsenal 0
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
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
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
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.
needed a win to secure third spot and set about the evening looking sharp and
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
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,
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).