Arsenal in trouble from outset in loss
Manager Arsene Wenger chose one of the toughest periods of his Arsenal tenure to make one of his most reckless team selections.
Dropping Alexis Sanchez, possibly the best player in the English Premier League, for an away game against Liverpool, a direct rival for a Champions League qualification place, may come to be a defining moment of a season that is starting to unravel.
Wenger realized his error at halftime. He threw Sanchez on for the second half, but Liverpool was ahead by then after goals by Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane and on its way to a 3-1 victory that lifted Juergen Klopp’s team above Arsenal and into third place.
“A decision like that is not easy to make,” Wenger said, “but you have to stand up for it.”
That Arsenal improved drastically with Sanchez on the field — he set up Danny Welbeck for a goal to make it 2-1 — was all the more galling to Arsenal’s increasingly disgruntled fan base.
Also Saturday, Manchester United striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic had a penalty saved and was fortunate to avoid a red card in an incident-filled 1-1 draw against 10-man Bournemouth at Old Trafford.
Ibrahimovic was involved in many of the flash points in a thrilling game, notably when he elbowed Tyrone Mings in the head moments after the defender appeared to stomp on the face of Ibrahimovic late in the first half.
The referee missed both incidents, though the players could face retrospective action by the English Football Association.
SPAIN: Lionel Messi and Neymar scored three spectacular goals to keep Barcelona atop the Spanish league by routing visiting Celta Vigo, 5-0.
The flashes of brilliance from Barcelona’s best may give pause to anyone who thinks Paris SaintGermain’s 4-0 cushion is surely insurmountable come Wednesday in the second leg of their Champions League round-of-16 match.
The intimidating display also comes in the first match since Coach Luis Enrique announced he would leave the club at the end of the season.
ITALY: Napoli got back on track by beating nearest rival Roma, 2-1, in Rome to leave Serie A leader Juventus with a big smile. Napoli remained third but closed the gap to second-place Roma to two points.
Juventus can stretch its advantage to 10 points with a win at struggling Udinese on Sunday.
“We must be realistic. The title race was very difficult before; now it’s almost impossible,” Roma Coach Luciano Spalletti said.
MLS: Kellyn Acosta scored in the 69th minute, and FC Dallas beat the Los Angeles Galaxy, 2-1, in the opener for both teams in Carson, Calif. Defending MLS Supporters’ Shield champion Dallas spoiled the debut of Galaxy Coach Curt Onalfo . . . . .
David Accam turned a defender around before scoring late in the second half to lift the Chicago Fire to a 1-1 draw with the host Columbus Crew . . . .
Former D.C. United goalkeeper Nick Rimando made three saves for Real Salt Lake, including two against Sebastian Giovinco, to help Real Salt Lake tie defending Eastern Conference champion Toronto FC, 0-0, in Sandy, Utah.
Giovinco was given a yellow card for unsporting behavior in the 82nd minute. He has 39 goals in two seasons and was the 2015 MLS Golden Boot winner . . . .
Dominique Badji scored in the 52nd minute to give the Colorado Rapids a 1-0 victory over the New England Revolution in Commerce City, Colo . . . .
Romell Quioto scored a goal in his debut to help the host Houston Dynamo to a 2-1 win over the defending MLS Cup champion Seattle Sounders.
New policy on anthems
The U.S. Soccer Federation adopted a policy that said national team players “shall stand respectfully” during national anthems.
The policy was approved last month but came to light before the U.S. women’s national team lost to England, 1-0, in a SheBelieves Cup match in Harrison, N.J.
Georginio Wijnaldum and Liverpool were happy that star Alexis Sanchez did not start for Arsenal.