Arsenal climbed into the top four with a laboured 2-1 win over a spirited Leicester City while Liverpool continued their push up the Premier League table with a pulsating 3-2 victory at home to Tottenham Hotspur on Tuesday.
Mario Balotelli’s first league goal for Liverpool sealed a topsy turvy game at Anfield that they twice led through Lazar Markovic and a Steven Gerrard penalty before being pegged back by the in form Harry Kane and Mousa Dembele.
Arsenal, with a revitalised Mesut Ozil in a central role, led 2-0 through Laurent Koscielny and Theo Walcott before basement side Leicester’s record signing Andrej Kramaric got his first goal for the club as they dominated the second half.
Fourth-placed Arsenal have 45 points from 25 games, two clear of sixth placed Spurs and three ahead of Liverpool in seventh, though they could be displaced by Manchester United in fifth who host lowly Burnley on Wednesday.
“The performance wasn’t the best at times but we got the three points and we ground it out in the end,” Arsenal goalscorer Walcott told Sky Sports.
“I can’t believe they’re bottom of the league as they played some very good football. I think they’re one of the best teams who have come to the Emirates this year. If they continue playing like that they won’t be there much longer.”
Queens Park Rangers claimed their first points away from home this season with a 2-0 victory at Sunderland thanks to goals from Leroy Fer and Bobby Zamora.
Hull City climbed out of the relegation zone with a 2-0 victory at home to free falling Aston Villa, courtesy of goals from Nikica Jelavic and Dame N’Doye, subjecting the Midlands side to a fifth successive league defeat in the process.
At Anfield, striker Daniel Sturridge, on his first Premier League start after a long-term injury, was one of Liverpool’s liveliest players and could have scored twice inside 13 minutes.
First the England international’s tame shot was saved by Hugo Lloris before the France goalkeeper made a stunning, instinctive save to keep out his rasping drive minutes later.
Liverpool were not to be denied in the 15th minute though when Markovic’s low shot squirmed past Lloris.
Tottenham’s Kane, fast becoming one the Premier League’s most feared forwards, restored parity for the visitors in the 26th minute with a neat turn and low finish.
Sturridge could have given Liverpool the halftime lead but his audacious backheel clipped the post after an unfortunate mix-up between two Spurs defenders.
The second period was only eight minutes old when Liverpool regained the lead through captain Gerrard who converted a penalty won by Sturridge’s mazy run.
Tottenham responded and only a fantastic Simon Mignolet save prevented Erik Lamela bringing the sides level again.
Moments later Dembele bundled home Kane’s scuffed cross and, as both sides pushed for a late winner, it was Liverpool and the much-maligned Balotelli who pounced with a close range finish.
The visit of Leicester provided Arsenal with the perfect opportunity to rebound from their bitter 2-1 north London derby defeat at rivals Spurs on Saturday.
With Ozil orchestrating their attacking play, Arsenal opened the scoring when Koscielny converted the German’s corner in the 27th minute.
But in an encouraging first half for the visitors, Leicester belied their lowly position to cause a number of problems with quick and enterprising counter-attacks.
As their confidence grew they were dealt a blow when Walcott doubled Arsenal’s lead, reacting quickest to convert Ozil’s parried shot.
Leicester were unperturbed and started the second half brightly, pulling back a goal through 9 million pounds ($13.73 million) record signing Kramaric in the 61st minute.
The visitors dominated the rest of the match and were unlucky not to leave the Emirates with a point As they remained four points adrift at the bottom of the table.
Leicester have 17 points from 25 games behind Burnley, who have 21, with Villa and Queens Park Rangers on 22, West Browmich Albion and Hull City with 23 and Sunderland on 24.