Robin van Persie scored either side of the interval to help Arsenal come from behind and win 2-1 at Anfield to bring an end to Liverpool’s unbeaten record at home this season.
On a day when injured captain Steven Gerrard started things off brightly for the home side by lifting the recently won Carling Cup trophy, an inspired Reds side brilliantly rode the momentum in the opening stages.
Gunners goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was forced to concede a penalty 18 minutes into the match, only for Dirk Kuyt to be denied both his initial attempt from the spot, as well as the follow-up rebound.
However, Szczesny’s heroics did not stop Liverpool from staying in the driving seat, as they controlled the flow of the match for another four minutes until they were rewarded with their inevitable goal.
Jordan Henderson’s cross – although a poor one – was turned into his own goal by Arsenal center-half Laurent Koscielny, bringing the crowd at Anfield to its feet.
Being a goal ahead seemed to inspire Liverpool further, as they kept piling the pressure on Arsenal up until the half-hour mark.
Then, it seemed that Carl Jenkison’s pre-match message kicked in for his Arsenal teammates and the visitors realized that they were fully capable of beating the Reds even without significant momentum.
Just as Liverpool had shockingly emerged 2-0 winners in an evenly fought contest at the Emirates back in August, Bacary Sagna’s incredibly precise cross came out of nowhere and unsurprisingly, the prolific van Persie was there to turn it in to the net.
Having silenced Anfield, the Gunners started asserting themselves back into the match but still needed a string of excellent saves from Szczesny to stay level at the interval.
In fact, the Polish goalkeeper was kept busy even throughout the second period, making save after save to keep his side in it.
In a notable development early in the second half, midfielder Abou Diaby made a long-due return to replace the injured Mikel Arteta.
Although Diaby himself had to be replaced by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the 81st minute, Arteta’s injury yet had more role to play on the match.
With eight minutes of stoppage time added to compensate for the time spent examining the Spaniard’s injury, the Gunners stayed focused.
Alex Song, in particular, remained locked in as he delivered a perfectly placed chip pass that landed in the feet of van Persie, who made no mistake in beating Reina yet again from close range.
It was goal number 43 for van Persie in his last 44 appearances, culminating in a perfect comeback story for Arsenal as they went from being thoroughly outplayed by Liverpool to going 10 points clear of the Carling Cup winners.
The result virtually ends the Reds’ hopes of qualifying for next season’s Champions League but leaves Arsenal in a pole position to silence their critics and make it to Europe’s most elite club competition for a 16th consecutive season.
In fact, having closed the gap to bitter cross-town rivals Tottenham Hotspur to merely four points, they can even dream of an automatic Champions League birth next season if they end up finishing third in the league and with the best record in London.