EPL PHOTOS: Arsenal drop points; Reds hammer Everton in derby
Arsenal's wings were clipped in a 2-2 draw at Southampton as they missed a chance to soar four points clear in the Premier League title race while Liverpool thrashed Everton and Manchester United beat Cardiff on Tuesday.
With ManchesterCity and Chelsea playing on Wednesday, Arsenal could have stolen a march on their rivals but, like their team bus that was late arriving after getting stuck in traffic, they struggled to move out of second gear.
Arsene Wenger's side started slowly and were caught out by Jose Fonte's early goal and Adam Lallana's second-half equaliser either side of strikes from Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla.
Arsenal, who had Mathieu Flamini sent off 10 minutes from time, are two points ahead of Manchester City and three above Chelsea but could drop to third if their rivals win on Wednesday at Tottenham Hotspur and home to West Ham United respectively.
Image: Arsenal's Olivier Giroud (right) fouls Southampton's Morgan Schneiderlin during their English Premier League match at St.Mary's Stadium in Southampton on Tuesday
Photographs: Eddie Keogh/Reuters
'Considering the situation at halftime we have to be content with the result'
"They have difficult games as well and we took at least a point," said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.
"It's not enough but, considering the situation at halftime (when Arsenal were losing 1-0), we have to be content with it."
It is not often Arsenal find themselves chasing possession, but Southampton gave the leaders the run-around in the first half and deservedly took the lead after 21 minutes.
Luke Shaw curled in a delightful cross from the left wing to pick out Fonte at the far post and he headed home.
Wenger's halftime team talk rallied his side and they were swiftly level after the restart with Giroud backheeling past Artur Boruc after turning on a Bacary Sagna cross before Cazorla buried a low shot to put them ahead four minutes later.
But they could not close the game out and Lallana turned in a Jay Rodriguez cross to level before French midfielder Flamini was given his marching orders for a rash challenge.
Image: Morgan Schneiderlin of Southampton and Mesut Oezil of Arsenal vie for possession
Photographs: Mike Hewitt/Getty Image
Gerrard, Sturridge bury Everton
There was no sluggishness about Liverpool, whose 15-year home hoodoo over rivals Everton continued with Daniel Sturridge scoring twice in a 4-0 win, while Dutchman Robin van Persie came back with a bang as Manchester United eased past Cardiff 2-0.
Fourth-placed Liverpool revived their own faint title hopes with their biggest win over Everton since 1982 and now sit six points behind Arsenal, and four ahead of their Merseyside rivals, while United stay seventh a further six points adrift.
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard powered in a 21st minute header to open the scoring at Anfield but it was Sturridge who took the game away from their Merseyside rivals, showcasing his finishing talents before Luis Suarez completed the rout.
Sturridge struck twice in two minutes past the half-hour just as Everton seemed to be gaining a foothold in the match, yet both his goals would have left Everton manager Roberto Martinez scratching his head at his side's shoddy defending.
Image: Daniel Sturridge (2nd from right) of Liverpool is congratulated by teammates after scoring against Everton during their English Premier League match at Anfield in Liverpool on Tuesday
Photographs: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
'It was a gamble to go with two strikers'
Midfielder Philippe Coutinho sent Sturridge racing through unchecked to fire left-footed past Tim Howard for his first goal while the England forward's second came from a hopeful long ball.
Sturridge looked disorientated when Kolo Toure's punt upfield found its way through to him as Everton pushed up for offside, but he regained his bearings to swivel and lob a smart finish past the advancing Howard and into the net.
He blotted his copy book somewhat by scooping a penalty over the bar in the second half after Suarez had run half the length of the pitch and calmly finished to make it 4-0, taking his league tally to 23 for the season to equal last term's total.
After Liverpool had been overrun for periods of their 2-2 draw with Aston Villa in their last home game with Suarez and Sturridge together up front, manager Brendan Rodgers admitted it was uncertain whether he would repeat the experiment.
"It was a gamble to go with two strikers but that's the reason we took the risk. We got four goals and could have had six or seven. It was a brilliant demonstration of how to play under pressure," he said.
Image: Steven Gerrard of Liverpool celebrates after scoring the opening goal against Everton
Photographs: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Mata, Van Persie combine well in United victory
With record signing Juan Mata making his debut for Manchester United after joining from Chelsea last week, the champions enjoyed a double boost as Van Persie made his first appearance since December 10 after injury.
He marked the occasion with the first goal before Ashley Young wrapped up the points to leave Cardiff bottom after a painful, if warmly applauded, return to Old Trafford for City's new manager and former United forward Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Mata had a part to play in United's opener, giving the home fans a taste of his playmaking abilities with a raking crossfield ball to start the move from which Van Persie found the net at the second attempt with a close-range header.
Perhaps inspired by Mata's arrival, Young found some of his old form to cut in from the left, beat two men and rifle home from distance.
Mid-tableSwanseaCity won 2-0 at home to lowly Fulham to record their first league victory since December 4, while NorwichCity and Newcastle United drew 0-0 at Carrow Road with City's Bradley Johnson and United's Loic Remy sent off after a clash.
Crystal Palace moved five points clear of the relegation zone with a 1-0 win at home to Hull City.
Image: Robin van Persie of Manchester United scores the opening goal against Cardiff City during their English Premier League match at Old Trafford in Manchester on Tuesday
Photographs: Michael Regan/Getty Images