Arsenal were in cruise control against Leeds after a dominating first-half display in Sunday’s Premier League contest at Emirates Stadium.
The visitors got off to the worst possible start in north London, with an embarrassing blunder from goalkeeper Illan Meslier gifting a goal to Eddie Nketiah inside five minutes.
The ex-Leeds loanee struck again shortly afterwards after fine wing play from Gabriel Martinelli, with things only getting worse for Leeds as Luke Ayling was sent off for a woeful two-footed challenge on the Brazilian.
Referee Chris Kavanagh initially showed just a yellow card, only to change his decision after being encouraged by VAR to consult the pitchside monitor. Ayling will now miss the remainder of the season through suspension.
The one-way traffic continued after the interval, but Arsenal could not find a third goal before Diego Llorente struck to halve the deficit with Leeds’ first shot of the day. However, the hosts held on despite a couple of late scares.
A fourth successive victory for Arsenal this afternoon saw Mikel Arteta’s fourth-placed side open up a four-point gap over rivals Tottenham ahead of Thursday’s pivotal north London derby showdown.
Meanwhile, battling Leeds ended the day in the relegation zone with only three matches left to play this season after their defeat was coupled by Everton winning again at Leicester. They face Chelsea at Elland Road next.
Follow Arsenal vs Leeds reaction LIVE with Standard Sport’s blog below, with expert analysis from Simon Collings at Emirates Stadium!
Could Nketiah stay at Arsenal?
Nketiah was also asked if these sorts of performances and results made him want to stay at Arsenal.
The England Under-21 international is out of contract at the end of the season…
“It’s a great atmosphere throughout the whole season, it’s been excellent,” he said. “You really feel the connection between the players and the fans, it’s amazing to be involved.”
Eddie Nketiah reaction
Here’s Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah speaking to Sky Sports…
“It’s always nice to score but it was a big three points.
“We’ve been working hard and want to get it for the fans. It’s amazing to get the three points, it moves us closer to our objectives.
“Any player just wants to be playing and get the opportunities. I’ve worked hard throughout the season to make sure that I was ready when I get my luck and credit to my team-mates for helping me play and do well. I’m just happy in the team and helping.
“We had a few chances in the first half to kill the game but we obviously didn’t take them. They are a good side, they are fighting for their lives down there and we knew that they were going to push.
“They troubled us in the second half but we showed good resilience to stay with it and get the three points which is most important.”
So that (needlessly nervous) win moves fourth-placed Arsenal four points clear of rivals Tottenham ahead of Thursday’s pivotal north London derby.
A battling display from Leeds in the end after a wretched first half, but that defeat combined with Everton’s 2-1 victory at Leicester means they slip into the bottom three with only three matches left to play this term.
It’s Chelsea at Elland Road next.
Arsenal 2-1 Leeds
92 mins: Meslier comes up again for a Leeds free-kick and Rodrigo can’t get enough on Phillips’ header as Ramsdale gratefully saves.
Gabriel is then mobbed by his team-mates as he does brilliantly to snuff out the danger posed by James and earn a free-kick that brings the final whistle.
90 mins: Phillips’ effort is blocked by Pepe!
Meslier doesn’t rush to get back and Leeds are exposed as Pepe races forward, but he resists the urge to have a pop from his own half and is then dispossessed by James.
Three minutes of added time signaled at the Emirates. Lacazette on for Nketiah.
89 mins: Alexandre Lacazette is preparing to come on for Arsenal as Llorente’s wonderfully-weighted pass is turned behind for a Leeds corner.
Up comes Meslier!
Simon Collings at the Emirates Stadium
Arsenal were 2-0 up after 10 minutes and have been playing against 10 men for an hour, but somehow we have a nervous finish here at the Emirates.
84 mins: Odegaard steps up to float a harmless effort straight into the grateful arms of Meslier.
Arsenal in firm control of this match still, but their lack of a third goal will be a major worry for Arteta.
All it takes is one mistake or one Leeds chance and two vital points in the Champions League race will slip away.
They cannot afford that with a trip to Tottenham to come on Thursday.
82 mins: Quick reactions from Smith Rowe to earn a free-kick following Struijk’s clumsy challenge a few yards outside the Leeds box.
Odegaard, Cedric and Pepe standing over the ball, with James led down behind the wall.