To say Martin Skrtel achieved his aim of helping Liverpool “start the game well” when it hosted Barclays Premier League rivals Arsenal on Saturday would be quite the understatement.
Before the Gunners had the chance to catch their collective breath during a blistering first 10 minutes at Anfield, the Slovakian defender had twice guided the ball expertly beyond Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.
That double from an unlikely source prompted a performance that perhaps topped the recent Merseyside derby, with a subsequent brace by Raheem Sterling and inevitable effort from Daniel Sturridge registering an incredible 5-1 scoreline.
In notching a quintet on home soil, Brendan Rodgers’ team increased its tally to 63 Premier League goals to date this season, significantly strengthening its challenge for a top-four spot and UEFA Champions League qualification.
There are 13 games still to navigate, of course, and Skrtel pledged after the final whistle that the Reds will instantly focus on a journey to Fulham on Wednesday and their impressive battle to reach Rodgers’ objectives.
“It was a perfect win for us,” the 29-year-old told Liverpoolfc.com. “We knew before the game that it was going to be tough, and it’s always special when you play big teams like Arsenal.
“We just wanted to start the game well and show we were ready for them — to be leading 4-0 after 20 minutes was perfect. We’re just happy we got three points from this game.
“We are ready. We beat Everton 4-0, we beat Arsenal 5-1. They are big wins and big points for us. Now we have to be focused for the next game we play, on Wednesday.
“We need to get three points there as well. We’re going from game to game, trying to get as many points as we can. We’ll see where we finish at the end of the season. We know what we’re playing for. We’re fighting for our life to get into the top four.”
For the first time in his Liverpool career, Skrtel struck the back of the net twice in one game, with captain Steven Gerrard the provider on both occasions with sublime set-piece deliveries.
The center-back admitted that he could not fully comprehend his feat, but reflected on the “special” sensation of contributing in such a major game and thanked his skipper for the helping hand.
“It doesn’t happen very often that I score a goal and I can’t remember when I scored two goals in one game,” the Reds’ No. 37 commented.
“I’m happy about scoring the two goals because it helped the team to get the three points. That’s the most important thing.
“When you score two goals, you obviously want one more to get a hat-trick. But I’d be happy with one and two is something special.
“I’ve scored 13 goals for Liverpool and maybe 90 percent of them were a cross from Steven. When he takes it, it’s going to be perfect. If you can get there and get the ball, it’s perfect.”
Expanding further on his analysis of Gerrard, who has been utilized in a deeper, controlling role since last month by the manager, Skrtel claimed the responsibility is well-suited to the midfielder.
“He’s done brilliantly,” added the defender. “The first game he played there was the game against Stoke, which was a great performance from him.
“He’s a great player. He has got the experience so he can control the game and the ball from that position. He has showed he is able to play there and it’s a great position for him.”