Arsenal's Ramsey celebrates after scoring a goal against Liverpool during their English Premier League soccer match at the Emirates stadium in London

Arsenal 2-0 Liverpool: Cazorla, Ramsey send Gunners five points clear at summit

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Arsenal put in a dominant display at the Emirates to down Liverpool 2-0 and go five points clear at the top of the Premier League table.

Santi Cazorla’s first half strike was added to by Aaron Ramsey’s stunning volley, as the Gunners eased to victory and sent out a message to the rest of the league.

Liverpool never got a grasp on the game at looked shaky defensively at times as Arsenal’s midfield movement was too much for Brendan Rodgers men to handle.

With the win Arsenal stay top on 25 points, while Liverpool stay in second five points behind.

The match, which was built up as the biggest game of the season so far, started off at a blistering pace as Tomas Rosicky made a darting run forward in the 5th minute and played a one-two with Santi Cazorla to set him free. But the Czech Republic midfielder saw his shot tipped wide by Simon Mignolet in goal for Liverpool with the first effort on target for either time.

The game was back and forth during the early stages, as both teams tried to dictate the tempo and get a foothold on proceedings.

Liverpool began to pile on the pressure on Arsenal as Daniel Sturridge’s clever flick from a corner saw the ball go goalwards but the Gunners were able to clear.

However not long after, Arsenal were ahead.

Spanish international Cazorla put the Gunners in front as Bacary Sagna raced down the right flank and whipped in an inviting ball that Cazorla headed against the post before reacting quickest to the ricochet by dispatching the rebound calmly to send the Emriates wild and put Arsenal 1-0 up.

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Ramsey’s tremendous second half volley settled the game for the Gunners.

Soon after Liverpool thought they had equalized through Jordan Henderson but referee Martin Atkinson waved play back. Luis Suarez was fouled by Sagna, and the Uruguayan forward acted quickly to slot Daniel Sturridge in who then found Henderson at the back post to tap the ball home. Yet Atkinson had blown his whistle to stop play, as he wanted to book Sagna. Liverpool and Suarez were incensed after some quick-thinking could’ve got the back in the game.

For the rest of the first half both teams battled it out in the center of the pitch, as Arsenal looked comfortable in possession and zipped the ball around with ease to go in ahead at the break. The last 20 times Arsenal led at half time they’d gone on to win… Liverpool were in trouble.

At the interval Liverpool brought on Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho for left wing-back Aly Cissokho, as Rodgers switched to a flat back four. It certainly worked early on, as Suarez twice got free in the box and on the second occasion his cross found Henderson who blasted over from 12 yards out on the angle.

In the 54th minute Liverpool almost gifted the Gunners a second goal as Kolo Toure’s pass went straight to Olivier Giroud who went clean through on goal but his chipped effort over Mignolet went wide.

But that didn’t matter, as Ramsey scored an absolute stunner in the 59th minute to put the Gunners 2-0 ahead. Arsenal’s player of the season so far scored his tenth goal of the campaign with a controlled volley from 25 yards out, handing his side a commanding lead just before the hour mark.

In the 72nd minute Suarez almost pulled a goal back as he latched onto a loose ball in the box and hit a shot with the outside of his right foot that clipped the post. And in the 87th minute Suarez raced clear after a sloppy pass from the Arsenal defense, but his tame finish rolled wide of the far post, and with it went Liverpool’s hopes of making a miraculous comeback.

Arsenal closed the game out expertly but bringing on full backs Nacho Monreal and Carl Jenkinson for attacking players, and could’ve adde a third thanks to good work from Giroud and Mesut Ozil as the latter went close, as the Gunners grabbed their eighth win from 10 games to start the season.

Cries of “we are top of the league” rang around the Emirates at full time. After this display, it’s easy to see why.

LINEUPS

Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs (Vermaelen, 77), Rosicky (Monreal, 71), Arteta, Ramsey, Cazorla (Jenkinson, 83), Ozil, Giroud

Liverpool: Mignolet, Flanagan (Moses, 67), Cissokho (Coutinho, 45), Toure, Skrtel, Sakho, Lucas, Gerrard, Henderson, Suarez, Sturridge

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Guradiola “so happy” to see Man City “achieve another step” as a club

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 21:  Josep Guardiola manager of Manchester City reacts as Leonardo Jardim head coach of AS Monaco looks on during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between Manchester City FC and AS Monaco at Etihad Stadium on February 21, 2017 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
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In the past, when faced with adversity in the UEFA Champions League, Manchester City could do little more than wilt and crumble as their European dreams when up in smoke year after year, typically in embarrassing and/or heartbreaking fashion.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

On Tuesday, when faced with 2-1 and 3-2 deficits late into the second half of their round-of-16 first leg against Monaco, deja vu was quickly setting in for anyone who’s followed Man City’s rise from middling afterthought to mega-rich conglomerate with aspirations of world domination. Then, something strange (based on years of recent history) happened: Sergio Aguero fired City back to level at 2-2 in the 58th minute. Sure, more shocking defending saw the deficit restored three minutes later, but again, Aguero dissented.

For this reason, and perhaps this reason alone considering the putrid defensively display over the course of 90 minutes, first-year City manager Pep Guardiola should be heartened by Tuesday’s events at the Etihad Stadium. In his mind, it was a massive step forward in the club’s psyche — quotes from the BBC:

“I am so happy for the result, we are still alive. These kind of things help this club to achieve another step. We attacked in small spaces. That’s why they wanted me to come here. Everybody has to be congratulated.

“We are going to fly to Monaco to score as many goals as possible. If we don’t score in Monaco we will be eliminated.”

UCL: Aguero, Falcao bag braces as Man City edge Monaco, 5-3

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 21:  Sergio Aguero of Manchester City (C) celebrates with John Stones (L) and Leroy Sane of Manchester City (R) as he scores their third goal during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between Manchester City FC and AS Monaco at Etihad Stadium on February 21, 2017 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
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  • Sterling gives Man City an early lead
  • Falcao hits back with a brace
  • Aguero’s brace breathes life back into City

Radamel Falcao and Sergio Aguero bagged dueling braces, while the defenders and/or goalkeepers from their respective sides engaged in dueling disasters, resulting in a bonkers UEFA Champions League round-of-16 first leg for the ages: Manchester City 5, Monaco 3.

Leroy Sane, David Silva and Raheem Sterling combined to put Man City in the lead after 28 minutes (WATCH HERE). Sane danced brilliantly and effortlessly past four defenders before playing Silva to the endline. The cross was simple for Silva, with Sterling arriving into acres of space in the goalmouth.

[ MORE: Rooney left out of Man United’s Europa League squad (again) ]

That’s as good as the first half would get for City, though, as their annual Champions League meltdown commenced six short minutes thereafter (WATCH HERE). The Nicolas Otamendi-John Stones-Bacary Sanga triangle of deadly defending fell asleep in unison, which allowed Falcao all the time and space in the world to size up and head home his 23rd goal (in 29 games — all competitions) this season.

Eight minutes later, everyone else in sky blue joined the aforementioned trio for nap time. Fabinho, who also whipped in the cross for Falcao’s goal, dropped the most delicate of long balls onto the foot of Kylian Mbappe, and the 18-year-old fired his first-time shot past Willy Caballero without a single defender five yards from him in any direction.

[ MORE: FA Cup QF draw — Chelsea vs. Man United; Arsenal vs. Lincoln City ]

The second half began just as disastrously for City as the first ended. Otamendi tripped Falcao inside the penalty, and after discussing with his assistant on the endline, referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz awarded Monaco a penalty kick — City felt hard done by after Aguero wasn’t awarded a clear-cut penalty in the first half — which Falcao then proceeded to hit weakly into the waiting arms of Caballero. The tide had turned back in City’s favor.

Ageuro fired City back onto level terms just short of the hour mark, with many thanks to the horrendous howler of Danijel Subasic. Aguero’s effort on goal was tame, and right at the Croatian international, but the ball went right through his hands and found the back of the net to make it 2-2, a scoreline which lasted all of three minutes.

Stones tried his very best Otamendi impression, which looked like halfhearted defending as Falcao left him for dead and chipped Caballero in the 61 minute. The renaissance of Falcao will almost certainly result in a summer full of transfer stories linking him with a move back to the Premier League.

Aguero brought City back to level terms again in the 71st minute, unleashing a stunning volley from David Silva’s corner kick. Stones tapped home at the back post six minutes later to put City 4-3 ahead, and Sane completed the epic comeback with an empty-net finish in the 82nd minute.

In the end, City still have plenty of work to do in the second leg, having conceded not one, not two, but three away goals. One thing is a near certainty: no extra time shall be needed.

UCL: Atletico Madrid blitz Bayer for 4 away goals, win 1st leg 4-2

Atletico's Antoine Griezmann, front, is congratulated by his teammate Saul Niguez after scoring their side's second goal during the Champions League round of 16 first leg soccer match between Bayer Leverkusen and Atletico Madrid in Leverkusen, Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
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  • Four away goals for Atleti
  • Niguez, Griezmann, Gamerio, Torres on the scoresheet
  • Bellarabi, Savic (OG) give Bayer a lifeline

If you spent your Tuesday glued to Manchester City’s thrilling 5-3 victory over Monaco in the UEFA Champions League, you may now direct your attention to the day’s other first-leg festival of goals: Bayer Leverkusen 2, Atletico Madrid 4.

[ MORE: Rooney left out of Man United’s Europa League squad (again) ]

Saul Niguez opened the scoring with a stunning curler after 17 minutes (WATCH HERE), and Antoine Griezmann doubled Los Rojiblancos‘ advantage eight minutes later to put Diego Simeone’s side in a commanding position with two early away goals.

[ MORE: FA Cup QF draw — Chelsea vs. Man United; Arsenal vs. Lincoln City ]

Karim Bellarabi pulled one back for Bayer just three minutes into the second half, but Kevin Gamerio converted from the penalty spot to restore Atleti’s two-goal lead just before the hour mark. Stefan Savic gave one back to Bayer in the form of an owl goal in the 68th minute, before Fernando Torres brought the visitors’ away-goals haul to four in the 86th minute.

AT THE HALF: Man City 1-2 Monaco; Atleti lead in UCL round of 16

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 21:  Radamel Falcao Garcia of AS Monaco celebrates as he scores their first and equalising goal during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between Manchester City FC and AS Monaco at Etihad Stadium on February 21, 2017 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
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We’re only halfway through the first leg of Manchester City versus Monaco, and Bayer Leverkusen versus Atletico Madrid, in the UEFA Champions League round of 16, but the goals are coming fast and furious from England to Germany.

[ MORE: Rooney left out of Man United’s Europa League squad (again) ]

Man City found themselves 1-0 up at the Etihad Stadium, when Leroy Sane turned on video-game mode to set up Raheem Sterling for the opening goal in the 28th minute. But, as City have so typically done in the Champions League, they began self-destructing four minutes later. Radamel Falcao‘s diving header brought Monaco level in the 32nd minute, and Kylian Mbappe’s finish over the head of Willy Caballero put the visitors 2-1 up eight minutes later.

[ MORE: FA Cup QF draw — Chelsea vs. Man United; Arsenal vs. Lincoln City ]

As for Tuesday’s other round-of-16 tie, Saul Niguez simultaneously opened the scoring and snatched the soul of every Bayer defender who dared to contest him. Antoine Griezmann added a second for Atleti, who hold their 2-0 lead at halftime, seven minutes later.