Premier League
ArsenalArsenal2LeedsLeeds United1

Arsenal 2-1 Leeds United: Gunners take control of top-four race

By Alex BysouthBBC Sport
Eddie Nketiah scores Arsenal's first
Eddie Nketiah has scored nine goals in all competitions this season

Arsenal took a huge step towards securing Champions League football next season as they saw off an ill-disciplined Leeds United, with the 10-man visitors dropping into the Premier League relegation zone.

It was a fourth successive win for Mikel Arteta's side and one that puts them firmly in the driving seat for a top-four spot before Thursday's north London derby at Tottenham.

But Leeds' early capitulation was entirely of their own making, with goalkeeper Illan Meslier gifting the hosts an opener before captain Luke Ayling was sent off for a needless lunge on Gabriel Martinelli.

Eddie Nketiah pounced on Meslier's loose touch to open the scoring and then finished a swift move to double the Gunners' lead before Ayling's rash challenge left Leeds a man down for more than an hour.

The Elland Road outfit did not have an effort on goal until Diego Llorente headed past Aaron Ramsdale in the 66th minute to tee up more of a nervy finish than anyone inside Emirates Stadium would have anticipated.

Leeds applied some late pressure, sending Meslier up for set-pieces, but the fourth-placed hosts were never seriously in danger of losing their lead and now hold a four-point lead over Tottenham in fifth.

Defeat for Leeds, coupled with Everton's win at Leicester, means Jesse Marsch's side slip into the bottom three with three games remaining.

Gunners take charge of top-four race

Eddie Nketiah
Eddie Nketiah played 19 times on loan for Leeds in the 2019-20 season

With Spurs drawing at Liverpool on Saturday, Arsenal knew if they could successfully navigate this potential stumbling block they would head into one of the most crucial north London derbies in recent years on Thursday with a commanding lead over their rivals.

The hosts were handed the ideal start when Meslier took a loose touch from Ayling's pass and allowed Nketiah to pounce for the opener - a reward for both his persistent pressing and recent performances leading the Arsenal line.

The 22-year-old's forward's future is yet to be determined, with his contract expiring in the summer, but Nketiah has continued to do his bit to make sure Arsenal are playing in Europe's elite competition next term, and doubled the hosts' lead with a well-taken second from Martinelli's pass in the 10th minute.

That was the forward's ninth goal this season, although five of those have come in the Carabao Cup, where he was used most frequently before earning a first Premier League start of the season last month and establishing his place in Arteta's first XI.

Now the soon-to-be-free-agent is spearheading a young and exciting Arsenal forward line alongside Bukayo Saka and Martinelli, who was on the end of a foolish tackle from Ayling that resulted in the defender being dismissed after 27 minutes.

Arsenal's flowing attack toyed with the visitors as Martin Odegaard's free-kick found its way onto the bar and Martinelli poked a half-volley over, only for the Gunners to be caught out from Leeds' first corner.

It made things slightly less comfortable than Arteta will have hoped for but his side got the vital win they needed before a trip to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, where victory will confirm Arsenal's return to the Champions League for the first time since 2016-17.

Leeds on the brink

Leeds Luke Ayling is sent off
On top of Ayling's sending off, Leeds received two yellow cards to take them to 96 this season - more than any side in Premier League history

Leeds looked to have turned a corner under new boss Marsch, collecting three wins in a five-game unbeaten run before being humbled 4-0 by league leaders Manchester City last time out.

That might have been enough to drag them to safety were it not for recent revivals from Burnley and Everton, but Marsch's side now find themselves on the brink of a return to the Championship.

The American must have watched on in disbelief as Meslier took a poor touch in his six-yard box to allow former Leeds loanee Nketiah to open the scoring after five minutes.

He will have been even more dumbfounded by captain Ayling, on his 500th career appearance, diving in on Martinelli when the visitors were trailing 2-0.

The defender was initially shown a yellow card, but VAR recommended referee Chris Kavanagh look at the pitch-side monitor and he upgraded it to red.

Raphinha almost followed the Leeds skipper for his reaction and the visitors threatened to unravel as home fans taunted them with chants of "you're going down".

Despite their numerical disadvantage, Leeds rediscovered some defensive solidity and made their first opportunity at the other end count when Junior Firpo flicked on a corner for Llorente to score.

Rodrigo had a chance to snatch a draw in stoppage time but could not get enough on his header, leaving Leeds 18th, level on points with Burnley and one behind Everton but with a far worse goal difference, as they finish the day in the bottom three for the first time since October.

Player of the match

NketiahEddie Nketiah

with an average of 7.99

Arsenal

  1. Squad number30Player nameNketiah
    Average rating

    7.99

  2. Squad number35Player nameGabriel Martinelli
    Average rating

    7.38

  3. Squad number7Player nameSaka
    Average rating

    7.14

  4. Squad number8Player nameØdegaard
    Average rating

    7.11

  5. Squad number25Player nameMohamed Elneny
    Average rating

    6.78

  6. Squad number18Player nameTomiyasu
    Average rating

    6.67

  7. Squad number32Player nameRamsdale
    Average rating

    6.64

  8. Squad number34Player nameXhaka
    Average rating

    6.63

  9. Squad number6Player nameGabriel Magalhães
    Average rating

    6.59

  10. Squad number16Player nameHolding
    Average rating

    6.58

  11. Squad number17Player nameCédric Soares
    Average rating

    6.39

  12. Squad number10Player nameSmith Rowe
    Average rating

    6.25

  13. Squad number9Player nameLacazette
    Average rating

    5.55

  14. Squad number19Player namePépé
    Average rating

    5.30

Leeds United

  1. Squad number26Player nameBate
    Average rating

    5.08

  2. Squad number19Player nameRodrigo
    Average rating

    4.97

  3. Squad number23Player namePhillips
    Average rating

    4.71

  4. Squad number14Player nameLlorente
    Average rating

    4.69

  5. Squad number20Player nameJames
    Average rating

    4.60

  6. Squad number30Player nameGelhardt
    Average rating

    4.60

  7. Squad number21Player nameStruijk
    Average rating

    4.58

  8. Squad number22Player nameHarrison
    Average rating

    4.46

  9. Squad number5Player nameKoch
    Average rating

    4.19

  10. Squad number10Player nameRaphinha
    Average rating

    4.09

  11. Squad number43Player nameKlich
    Average rating

    3.94

  12. Squad number3Player nameFirpo
    Average rating

    3.93

  13. Squad number1Player nameMeslier
    Average rating

    3.78

  14. Squad number2Player nameAyling
    Average rating

    3.37

Line-ups

Arsenal

Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 32Ramsdale
  • 17Cédric Soares
  • 16Holding
  • 6GabrielBooked at 16mins
  • 18TomiyasuBooked at 64mins
  • 25Elneny
  • 34Xhaka
  • 7SakaSubstituted forPépéat 68'minutes
  • 8Ødegaard
  • 35MartinelliSubstituted forSmith Roweat 78'minutes
  • 30NketiahSubstituted forLacazetteat 90+1'minutes

Substitutes

  • 1Leno
  • 9Lacazette
  • 10Smith Rowe
  • 19Pépé
  • 20Tavares
  • 23Sambi Lokonga
  • 65Oulad M'hand
  • 69Swanson
  • 87Patino

Leeds

Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 1Meslier
  • 2AylingBooked at 27mins
  • 5Koch
  • 14Llorente
  • 3Firpo
  • 43KlichBooked at 34minsSubstituted forBateat 45'minutes
  • 23Phillips
  • 10RaphinhaBooked at 27minsSubstituted forRodrigoat 60'minutes
  • 20James
  • 22Harrison
  • 30GelhardtSubstituted forStruijkat 29'minutes

Substitutes

  • 13Klaesson
  • 19Rodrigo
  • 21Struijk
  • 26Bate
  • 33Hjelde
  • 35Cresswell
  • 42Greenwood
  • 46Shackleton
  • 63Gray
Referee:
Chris Kavanagh
Attendance:
60,108

Match Stats

Home TeamArsenalAway TeamLeeds
Possession
Home63%
Away37%
Shots
Home19
Away3
Shots on Target
Home9
Away2
Corners
Home8
Away2
Fouls
Home13
Away15

Live Text

  1. Post update

    Match ends, Arsenal 2, Leeds United 1.

  2. Full Time

    Second Half ends, Arsenal 2, Leeds United 1.

  3. Post update

    Gabriel Magalhães (Arsenal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  4. Post update

    Foul by Daniel James (Leeds United).

  5. Post update

    Attempt saved. Rodrigo (Leeds United) header from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Junior Firpo with a headed pass.

  6. Post update

    Foul by Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal).

  7. Post update

    Pascal Struijk (Leeds United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  8. Substitution

    Substitution, Arsenal. Alexandre Lacazette replaces Eddie Nketiah.

  9. Post update

    Attempt blocked. Kalvin Phillips (Leeds United) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.

  10. Post update

    Corner, Leeds United. Conceded by Takehiro Tomiyasu.

  11. Post update

    Foul by Martin Ødegaard (Arsenal).

  12. Post update

    Daniel James (Leeds United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  13. Post update

    Offside, Arsenal. Cédric Soares tries a through ball, but Nicolas Pépé is caught offside.

  14. Post update

    Attempt saved. Martin Ødegaard (Arsenal) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the top left corner.

  15. Post update

    Emile Smith Rowe (Arsenal) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

  16. Post update

    Foul by Pascal Struijk (Leeds United).

  17. Substitution

    Substitution, Arsenal. Emile Smith Rowe replaces Gabriel Martinelli.

  18. Post update

    Corner, Arsenal. Conceded by Daniel James.

  19. Post update

    Attempt missed. Gabriel Magalhães (Arsenal) header from the right side of the six yard box misses to the right. Assisted by Cédric Soares with a cross following a corner.

  20. Post update

    Corner, Arsenal. Conceded by Robin Koch.

Everything you need to know about your Premier League team banner
  • Our coverage of your Premier League club is bigger and better than ever before - here's everything you need to know to make sure you never miss a moment
BBC Sport banner footer

Comments

Join the conversation

These comments are now closed.

1092 comments