We were well beaten by Liverpool on an evening to forget at Anfield in our final match of 2018.
We started the game brightly, passing the ball about confidently and nipping into challenges – although there was a warning of what was to come when Mo Salah hit the side netting.
But we continued to come forward and in the 11th minute we temporarily silenced Anfield as we scored a goal borne out of Hale End as the lively Alex Iwobi delivered a lovely ball across the box for Ainsley Maitland-Niles to convert at the far post.
It was the 21-year-old’s first goal for us, but within three minutes the game had been turned completely on its head as Roberto Firmino scored twice.
The first was unlucky as a couple of ricochets in the box saw the ball fall at the feet of the Brazilian, but the second would have infuriated Unai Emery as the forward pounced on a loose pass before strolling past two defenders and slotting home.
Despite this, we worked hard to get back into the game with Iwobi and Maitland-Niles getting some joy down the flanks, but the hosts’ third goal was a knockout blow as Salah beat a misjudged offside trap and squared for Sadio Mane to slot home.
It was tough to take, and things got worse on the stroke of half time as Salah beat Sokratis in the box before going down under a challenge from the Greek defender. Penalty, and the Liverpool forward made no mistake from the spot.
It was a long way back in the second half and both Salah and Mane had chances straight after the restart, while Aaron Ramsey threatened at the other end.
Bernd Leno was soon called into action to save from Firmino, and then from Fabinho as the hosts looked to add further gloss to the scoreline - and they soon had it as Sead Kolasinac was penalised for a push and Firmino completed his hat-trick from the spot.
That finished the scoring, and Emery and his side will have to quickly forget this result as we look to start 2019 on a more positive note when we host Fulham on New Year’s Day.
HOW IT HAPPENED
WHAT IT MEANS
We start 2019 with a home fixture against Fulham at Emirates Stadium, having beaten them 5-1 at Craven Cottage back in October.
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