Monday, June 27, 2022 | Dhu al-Qaadah 27, 1443 H
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Gunners well placed after win over Leeds.

second lead

London: With a comfortable 2-1 win over Leeds, Arsenal remain in fourth position in the Premier League to qualify for Champions League but much depends on their London derby match against rivals Tottenham, in a couple of day, who are also vying for a top-four finish.

Gunners manager, Mikel Arteta, said: “Thursday can be a defining moment in our season. That’s extra motivation for us to really go for it. I can’t wait for the game and we’re going to approach that match with the same enthusiasm that we always do. We are finding ways to win under pressure. We are getting better and dealing with it because we are winning matches. Hopefully it’s not just about handling the nerves.

Leeds played for well over an hour with 10 men after Luke Ayling was sent off for a foul on Gabriel Martinelli. It was a reckless two-footed lunging tackle. The referee straightaway showed the yellow card but after consulting VAR he produced the red card.

Arteta said: “Leeds completely changed their behaviour after the red card. For the first 35 minutes we were electric. We were so determined and incisive.” He added: “We conceded a set-piece goal and had to handle some nerves after that because in games now this is the decisive moment when a single goal can change a whole season.”

The Gunners fast-paced start paid off with their two goals coming in the first 10 minutes. The first one was after a misjudged pass by Ayling from the left to his goalkeeper Illan Meslier with Arsenal’s Eddie Nketiah in fairly close attendance. Instead of clearing first time, Meslier took a heavy touch to control and Nketiah tackled him on the goal-line before sliding the ball home.

Within five minutes Arsenal then doubled the lead. Martinelli beat Ayling with a surging run on the left before pulling the ball back in his cross for Nketiah to slam in a left-footed first-time shot.

Thereafter, the Gunners could have quickly further extended the lead but Diego Llorente cleared a flighted free kick off the goal-line after a misjudgement by Meslier. The goalkeeper then saved two attempts, one with his knee from Martinelli and then his shoulder from a shot by Bukayo Saka.

Leeds were better organised and disciplined after the break and pressed hard but the Gunners defence stood firm. Leeds best effort came near the end but Rodrigo headed straight to the goalkeeper after Junior Firpo had flicked on a pass following a free kick.

Leeds, manager, Jesse Marsche, didn’t blame his players. “Luke (Ayling) has apologised and this is not the time to point fingers at anyone. We’re screwed if we start playing the blame game, because the only way out for us is for everyone to stick together and fight for points.”

He added: “We dug ourselves a massive hole with the way we started the game and made our task more difficult. We have to be realistic and understand that starting a game like this can absolutely destroy our chances.”

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