Arsenal moved four points clear of Tottenham in fourth with a 2-1 Premier League victory over Leeds at the Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners had the ball in the back of the net inside four minutes when Illan Meslier made a calamitous misjudgment. The Frenchman collected the ball from Luke Ayling in his own six-yard area, but he dawdled too long in possession before Eddie Nketiah slid in to give Arsenal an early lead.
Mikel Arteta’s side then doubled their advantage just six minutes later. Gabriel Martinelli powered his way through Leeds on the left-hand side, pulling the ball back to the onrushing Nketiah who swept his left-footed effort into the bottom corner.
Things went from bad to worse for Leeds in the 22nd minute when Luke Ayling was shown a straight red card – upgraded by VAR – for a reckless challenge on Martinelli on the byline.
Mateusz Klich was booked for a cynical kick on Granit Xhaka minutes later, before Martinelli drew a fine save from Meslier after he was sent through by the Swiss.
LOOK AWAY, LEEDS FANS! ??
A howler from Illan Meslier and it’s the worst possible start for the away side! ?
? Arsenal host Leeds is ???? on Sky Sports! pic.twitter.com/srlzJgTk1S
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) May 8, 2022
Arsenal ought to have doubled their lead before the hour mark when Martinelli broke through the Leeds rearguard after collecting a loose ball on the edge of the area. However, the Brazilian lacked composure and fired his effort over.
Then, with their first corner of the afternoon, Leeds halved the deficit. Junior Firpo’s near post flick found Diego Llorente ghosting round at the opposite post before the Spaniard lashed his volley beyond Aaron Ramsdale.
Martin Odegaard had the chance to put the game beyond doubt just minutes later. The Norwegian drifted into space on the edge of the penalty area before pulling the trigger, but his effort trickled wide.
It was nervier than it ought to have been for Arteta’s men, but they ultimately hung on to secure a precious three points ahead of Thursday’s North London Derby showdown with Tottenham.
Here’s how both teams rated.
Nketiah celebrates / Ryan Pierse/GettyImages
GK: Aaron Ramsdale – 5/10 – A remarkably quiet afternoon for the England international until Diego Llorente netted in the second half.
RB: Cedric Soares – 6/10 – His delivery from wide was often lacking, but he was aggressive in the challenge, helping Arsenal maintain their momentum.
CB: Rob Holding – 7/10 – Came up big for Arsenal last weekend, but had very little to contend with against a Leeds side playing with a man fewer.
CB: Gabriel – 7/10 – Booked for a late sliding challenge early in the first half, although that was the only blemish on a serene afternoon for the Brazilian.
LB: Takehiro Tomiyasu – 8/10 – Selected on the left-hand side instead of Nuno Tavares and stifled the dangerous threat of Raphinha.
CM: Granit Xhaka – 7/10 – Hugely effective performance, orchestrating Arsenal from the base of midfield. Threaded a couple of gorgeous passes through the Leeds backline.
CM: Mohamed Elneny – 7/10 – His experience in these fixtures was immediately apparent. Very incisive in his passing.
AM: Martin Odegaard – 8/10 – A gorgeous display in how to both create and exploit space. Had his array of tricks and flicks out inside the opening half hour.
RW: Bukayo Saka – 6/10 – Constantly looked to explode beyond Firpo on the flank, although he had few sightings of goal.
ST: Eddie Nketiah – 7/10 – His brace means he has now scored more open play goals for the Gunners this season than Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang combined.
LW: Gabriel Martinelli – 9/10 – Gave Ayling the runaround in the early exchanges, especially in the lead up to Nketiah’s second. Prompted the red card for Ayling for a reckless lunge. Wasteful at times.
SUB: Nicolas Pepe (68′ for Saka) – N/A
SUB: Emile Smith Rowe (78′ for Martinelli) – N/A
SUB: Alexandre Lacazette (90′ for Nketiah) – N/A
Ayling was shown a red card early in the first half / Ryan Pierse/GettyImages
GK: Illan Meslier – 2/10 – Head in hands moment inside four minutes when he gifted Arsenal their opener, but he redeemed himself with a couple of fine stops.
RB: Luke Ayling – 0/10 – Endured a torrid time against the dangerous Martinelli, before lunging into a careless challenge on the Brazilian to be given his marching orders inside 30 minutes.
CB: Diego Llorente – 7/10 – Gave Leeds a ray of hope when he ghosted in at the far post from their first corner of the game
CB: Robin Koch – 4/10 – Lacked conviction when defending crosses, swiping at an Odegaard delivery early in the second half which almost proved fatal.
LB: Junior Firpo – 6/10 – Struggled against Saka from a defensive perspective, but he offered Leeds an outlet in attack.
CM: Mateusz Klich – 2/10 – His frustration could be summed up by the yellow card he received in the first half for a cynical kick on Xhaka. Hooked at the interval.
CM: Kalvin Phillips – 2/10 – Chasing shadows for most of the game and, within that analogy, looks a shadow of the player he was before his lengthy injury.
AM: Dan James – 4/10 – Ran tirelessly after the ball in attack, but it was ultimately a fruitless exercise with only ten men for Leeds.
RW: Raphinha – 4/10 – Forced to spend most of his afternoon chasing back to offer his services defensively.
ST: Joel Gelhardt – N/A – Withdrawn inside the half-hour mark following Ayling’s sending off.
LW: Jack Harrison – 3/10 – Couldn’t get himself involved in the game. Like Raphinha, was forced to go through a lot of defensive work following the red card.
SUB: Pascal Struijk (29′ for Gelhardt) – 5/10 – Introduced to the defence following Ayling’s red card.
SUB: Lewis Bate (46′ for Klich) – 5/10 – Always available to receive a pass from the Leeds defence in the second half.
SUB: Rodrigo (60′ for Raphinha) – 4/10 – Made a couple of promising runs when Leeds broke forward, but he was unable to be found.
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