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English Premier League: Liverpool beaten again, Arsenal bounces back

By Gary Morley, CNN
updated 5:31 PM EDT, Sat September 20, 2014
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard (left) and new signing Mario Balotelli show their disappointment after Saturday's 3-1 defeat at West Ham. Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard (left) and new signing Mario Balotelli show their disappointment after Saturday's 3-1 defeat at West Ham.
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  • Liverpool beaten for second successive match, losing 3-1 at West Ham
  • Last season's Premier League runner-up in 10th place after five games
  • Arsenal bounces back from Champions League defeat with victory
  • Mesut Ozil inspires a blitz of three goals in seven minutes at Aston Villa

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(CNN) -- Talk about rubbing it in.

As if Liverpool fans needed reminding of last season's traumatic collapse with a long-awaited English Premier League title in sight, the club's hangover was made very apparent Saturday.

A 3-1 defeat at West Ham was the third in five matches for Brendan Rodgers' team, coming after a last-gasp midweek win at home to Bulgarian underdog Ludogorets in the European Champions League.

On Friday, West Ham manager Sam Allardyce -- who narrowly avoided the sack last season after his side's slightly flattering 13th placing -- chided the Reds for having failed to break the recent dominance of the Manchester clubs and Chelsea.

"They were in pole position and had one hand on the trophy but they ended up throwing it away," he wrote in his newspaper column.

"They had no European football to distract them, their schedule was clear except for that one goal, that one focus. They were brilliant but they should have taken full advantage when they had it in the palm of their hands."

If Allardyce -- once tipped as a future England manager but often derided for his functional long-ball tactics -- was attempting mind games then you could argue that it paid off.

His team went 2-0 up inside seven minutes against a new-look Liverpool side still getting to grips with the departure of top scorer, game-changer and all-round mischief-maker Luis Suarez to Barcelona.

New Zealand international defender Winston Reid scored the opener from close range -- his first goal since October 2013 -- and new signing Diafra Sakho netted his third in as many games with a speculative chip from the right.

Liverpool pulled one back before halftime through England forward Raheem Sterling after Mario Balotelli's shot was blocked, but the Italy striker made few other telling contributions apart from a booking when he clashed with goalkeeper Adrian.

West Ham sealed victory in the 88th minute when Stewart Downing set up substitute Morgan Amalfitano, with Liverpool pressing for the equalizer.

The win lifted the Londoners to eighth place, leaving last season's runner-up Liverpool languishing in 10th -- six points behind leader Chelsea, which travels to champion Manchester City on Sunday.

"It's a well-deserved victory -- it's not a lucky one, it's not Liverpool having an off day, it's West Ham being absolutely brilliant on the day," Allardyce told UK broadcaster Sky Sports.

"I thought the first-half performance was absolutely outstanding -- in actual fact, I thought we should have been three or four up by halftime."

It was the first time since December that Liverpool had lost successive league games, following last weekend's 1-0 defeat by Aston Villa.

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"We were nowhere near the standard today," said Rodgers, whose team face a midweek League Cup game against Middlesbrough before next Saturday's Merseyside derby against Everton.

"It is just not quite happening for us at the moment. We have a lot of work to do and today was very disappointing in terms of performance."

Villa had gone into the weekend in second place but fell back to earth with a bump, losing 3-0 to an Arsenal team smarting from a midweek Champions League defeat away to Borussia Dortmund.

With new signing Alexis Sanchez rested by Arsene Wenger, World Cup winner Mesut Ozil was given the chance to shine in a more central role -- and the German duly delivered with the opening goal just after half an hour and an assist for new signing Danny Welbeck.

An own-goal from Aly Cissokho made it three in the space of seven minutes, and the game was effectively over before halftime as Arsenal moved up to fourth.

"You have to show him the confidence is there and he showed he can respond when he was under scrutiny," Wenger said of Ozil, who has been strongly criticized for luckluster displays this season and in the second half of the previous one.

"It's always a sensitive point, you don't know how people respond to that."

Villa boss Paul Lambert lamented the virus that had decimated his squad before the game.

"It's a tough game for us when everyone is 100% fit, but the lads were running on empty," said the Scot, who has been rewarded with a new contract until 2018.

At the other end of the managerial security spectrum, Newcastle's Alan Pardew can thank substitute Papisse Cisse for giving him a lifeline.

The Senegal striker, making his return after fracturing a kneecap in March, scored twice in the last 20 minutes to deny Hull in a 2-2 draw -- though Newcastle remained in the bottom three.

Southampton moved up to second place, above Villa on goal difference, with a 1-0 win at Swansea thanks to an 80th-minute goal from sub Victor Wanyama -- the Kenyan midfielder's first for the club.

Queen's Park Rangers salvaged a 2-2 draw at home to Stoke thanks to a late free-kick from Croatian veteran Niko Kranjcar, while Sunderland drew 0-0 at promoted Burnley.

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