Liverpool's Martin Skrtel, centre, celebrates after scoring against Arsenal during their English Premier League soccer match at Anfield Stadium, Liverpool, England, Saturday Feb. 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

Liverpool 5-1 Arsenal: Rampant Reds tear leaders apart (video)

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Liverpool put on a devastating first half display to blow away league leaders Arsenal at Anfield on Saturday, with the home side running out 5-1 winners over the Gunners.

The scoring started early as Martin Skrtel scored after just 55 seconds, then grabbed another after nine minutes. Soon after Raheem Sterling made it 3-0, then in the 19th minute Daniel Sturridge made it 4-0 in an incredible opening 20 minutes for Liverpool.

Arsenal were shell-shocked following Liverpool’s high-pressure approach and after the break Sterling made it 5-0 as the rout continued. To their credit Arsenal kept working hard and bagged a consolation through Mikel Arteta’s penalty with 20 minutes to go.

With the win Liverpool stay in fourth but are now just five points behind leaders Arsenal, while the Gunners will expect to be replaced at the top by Manchester City or Chelsea later in the weekend.

(MORE: Three things we learned in Liverpool’s battering of Arsenal)

After just 55 seconds Liverpool took the lead, as Suarez had been fouled out wide by Per Mertesacker and Steven Gerrard swung in a magnificent free kick which Skrtel guided past Wojciech Szczesny to send Anfield wild and put Liverpool 1-0 up.

Arsenal then fell further behind in the 9th minute as Skrtel once again got on the end of a set-piece from Gerrard, as the Slovakian defender headed home his second goal of the game to put Liverpool in dreamland and 2-0 up.

Liverpool were rampant as both Suarez and Daniel Sturridge came close to scoring a third, as Suarez smashed the upright with a marvelous volley from 25-yards out that really deserved to go in. The Gunners didn’t know what had hit them, as only Mertesacker’s glancing header came close to reducing Liverpool’s lead.

And then Liverpool were 3-0 up as Suarez broke down the right and fed Sterling to slot home in the 15th minute. Less than five minutes later the home side were ahead 4-0 as Philippe Coutinho played a marvelous ball to Sturridge who slotted home to score for his seventh-straight game.

After just 20 minutes of the first half gone, Liverpool were 4-0 up. I repeat, 4-0 up against PL leaders Arsenal.

For the rest of the first half it was a case of damage limitation for Arsenal, as they held back Liverpool who just kept surging forward with their incredible high-pressure approach.

(Latest Premier League Standings)

After the break it was more of the same, as Sterling raced clear after good play down Liverpool’s left and the young English winger bagged his second and Liverpool’s fifth in the 51st minute.

Arsenal made a triple substitution on the hour mark as Podolski, Rosicky and Gibbs all came on as Wenger tried to spark life into his side that had been completely obliterated in the opening half of the game. The Gunners had a shot on goal soon after as Wilshere forced Mignolet into a diving save, but then moments later Suarez almost scored a stunning free kick as his 35-yard effort was clawed out of the top corner by Szczesny.

In the 68th minute Arsenal finally pulled a goal back as Arteta scored from the penalty spot after Gerrard took down Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the box. Soon after that Mignolet made a good stop from Arteta’s free kick as Arsenal finished the game strongly.

But Liverpool had further chances to extend their lead, but settled for a 5-1 mauling as their magnificent home form continues.

LINEUPS

Liverpool: Mignolet, Flanagan, Cissokho, Toure, Skrtel, Gerrard (Ibe, 76), Henderson, Sterling, Coutinho, Suarez (Aspas, 86), Sturridge (Allen, 66)

Goals: Skrtel (1 & 9), Sterling (15 & 51), Sturridge (19)

Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal (Gibbs, 60), Wilshere, Arteta, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Ozil (Rosicky, 60), Giroud (Podolski, 60)

Goal: Arteta (68)

Report: Agent in China, Rooney could leave Man Utd this month

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 13:  Wayne Rooney of Manchester United poses with the Premier League trophy at the start of the Premier League trophy winners parade on May 13, 2013 in Manchester, England  (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
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Could Wayne Rooney‘s days at Manchester United be over as soon as the end of the month?

The BBC reports that Rooney’s agent is in China in the hopes of negotiating a contract with a Chinese Super League team.

[ MORE: Leicester grabs away goal ]

The 31-year-old is said to be wanted by Jiangsu Suning and Tianjin Quanjian. The former club has ex-Chelsea standout Ramires, while the latter is coached by Fabio Cannavaro and boasts Axel Witsel and Alexandre Pato.

From the BBC:

There are no guarantees of success and it is thought a deal remains highly unlikely before the Chinese transfer window closes on 28 February.

And if he does not leave this month it seems certain he will go in the summer.

Rooney is the all-time leading scorer for both Manchester United and England. While his legacy is secure at the former and the latter, will a move to the CSL end his time under Gareth Southgate at England before another World Cup?

So many questions to unpack as one of the Premier League’s all-timers looks set to leave the country in the next six months.

Real Madrid adds intrigue to La Liga race with rare loss (video)

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo, right, and Real Madrid's Lucas Vazquez, left, react after failing to score against Valencia during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Valencia and Real Madrid at the Mestalla stadium in Valencia, Spain, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Alberto Saiz)
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The lone Wednesday match on La Liga’s docket injected some drama back into the chase for Spain’s crown.

Real Madrid fell 2-1 at Valencia, unable to overcome conceding twice in the first 10 minutes.

The match was one of two matches-in-hand Real held on its rivals for La Liga’s title. Now Real’s one-point lead over Barcelona and three-point advantage over Sevilla seem a bit more manageable.

[ MORE: Man Utd onto Europa Rd of 16 ]

Simone Zaza and Fabian Orellana netted for Los Che, but Cristiano Ronaldo’s 44th minute goal was the only answer the leaders could muster before full time.

Zaza’s goal was a stunner:

Real could rebuild its lead over the weekend, with Barcelona off to Atletico Madrid on Sunday and Sevilla traveling to Betis on the heels of its UCL win over Leicester City.

But for now, life’s a bit more exciting in Spain. Real hosts Barcelona on April 23, and hosts Sevilla on the penultimate weekend of the season.

Standings

 

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Real Madrid 22 16 4 2 57 20 37 10-2-0 6-2-2 52
 Barcelona 23 15 6 2 63 19 44 7-3-1 8-3-1 51
 Sevilla 23 15 4 4 46 28 18 9-1-1 6-3-3 49
 Atlético Madrid 23 13 6 4 43 19 24 8-2-1 5-4-3 45
 Real Sociedad 23 13 2 8 36 32 4 7-2-3 6-0-5 41
 Villarreal 23 10 9 4 30 15 15 7-3-2 3-6-2 39

WATCH: Giovinco nets rain-soaked preseason beauty

TORONTO, ON - MAY 07:  Sebastian Giovinco #10 of Toronto FC is presented with the MLS Audi Golden Boot Award as leading scorer for the 2015 season prior to an MLS soccer game against FC Dallas at BMO Field on May 7, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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We still can’t get over Sebastian Giovinco’s omission from the list of finalists for the 2016 MLS MVP Award, and the Toronto FC magician gave us another reminder of his greatness on Wednesday.

Playing a preseason match against Minnesota United on a rain-soaked pitch, Giovinco scored a brace. One of those goals came off an ankle-breaking dribble and finished with rain splashing off the net.

[ MORE: Man Utd onto Europa Rd of 16 ]

Yeah, he’s still good.

Giovinco turned 30 last month but still looks good money to dance up the statistical leaderboard this season. The Reds open at Real Salt Lake on March 4.

Leicester after one leg vs. Sevilla: “We knew they are better than us”

Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri catches the ball during the Champions League round of 16 soccer match between Sevilla and Leicester City at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan stadium in Seville, Spain, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Miguel Morenatti)
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Sevilla probably should’ve put Leicester City to bed.

Thanks to Kasper Schmeichel, the Spanish powers couldn’t do that. Now stubborn Leicester is a 1-0 win away from progressing to the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals.

[ MORE: UCL wrap-up ]

Credit to Jamie Vardy, too, who put away a rare Leicester chance to give the Foxes a road goal from its trip West, but Schmeichel was magnificent.

And Leicester certainly knows how to defend and hit teams on the break.

“We knew they are better than us, they have high quality in possession. We suffered. They showed their quality but we showed our heart. We showed belief and never game up. That makes me satisfied.

“At the end, if we are a little more calm on the counter-attack, we could have done more. It was very important to match them and every result is still open.”

It certainly wasn’t easy to get to the final whistle. Here’s Vardy.

“Everyone has given 110 percent and everyone has come off absolutely blowing. We knew we had to be patient and take our chances but we knew we could hurt them on the press and that’s what Danny (Drinkwater) did. He got it over to me and I slipped it in.”

Again, we wouldn’t sleep on Leicester despite Sevilla’s dominance at home. King Power Stadium will be riled up come March 14, and one moment of magic could be enough for another miraculous moment for Leicester lore.