Arsenal beat Bournemouth in amazing comeback win with Reiss Nelson’s 97th-minute winner
Arsenal fought back against Bournemouth to claim all three points at the Emirates with the latest of late shows.
Reiss Nelson’s strike, deep into injury time, sent the Emirates in raptures on an afternoon that could prove defining in the title race. The Cherries scored the second fast goal in the competition’s history when Philip Billing finished within ten seconds.
The Gunners, who had seen Manchester City win just hours earlier, failed to make their pressure count before half-time and then fell two goals behind before the hour mark.
Marcos Senesi headed home in front of Bournemouth’s travelling faithful before Thomas Partey cut the deficit just minutes later. Ben White rounded off the comeback to set up a grandstand final 20 minutes. The hosts had all the momentum but couldn’t find the decisive fifth goal, even with a mammoth six minutes of added time.
They enjoyed the majority of possession with VAR consulted on several contentious calls, but the Premier League strugglers looked set to hold out – that was until Nelson’s late thunderbolt – which had the entire Arsenal bench celebrating on the pitch.
If Arsenal go on to claim a first league title since 2004, then an afternoon in March may well be pointed to as a pivotal moment. With an hour gone the Gunners trailed by two goals to Bournemouth, who threatened to blow the title race wide open.
A Partey goal after 62 minutes changed all that and, when White levelled the contest after 70 minutes, there was always a sense of inevitability about where the fifth goal would go. Of course it was to the hosts, who re-establish their five point lead at the top when it could’ve been just two.
Games that appear routine wins will be anything but in the final stretch of the campaign and this clash in north London highlighted that. Arsenal though showed a character that will have had a deflating impact on their rivals watching on.
Granit Xhaka’s absence from the starting XI was the headline before kick-off with the Swiss star being handed a rare afternoon on the bench. It allowed Fabio Vieira to come in having rarely started since his summer move from Porto.
The playmaker has had to deal with substitute cameos, which has somewhat limited him. His only start came at Brentford earlier this season, where he capped an impressive display with his only league goal of the campaign. Arsenal’s dominance with the ball was always going to play to his strengths and he occupied a more advanced role than Xhaka would adopt.
On the face of it, this game was the ideal opportunity to throw Vieira into the mix, but you get the impression Xhaka still provides more defensive assurances against the better sides in the league, thus the Portuguese’s time as a starter may be short lived.
Bukayo Saka dominates as Arsenal take eight-point lead in title race
Bukayo Saka scored twice and provided an assist in a brilliant performance to help Mikel Arteta’s side extend their lead over Manchester City at the top of the Premier League.
The Gunners were clinical in the final third, with Gabriel Martinelli firing them in front before Bukayo Saka found space in the box to stroke in a second before half-time. Palace hit the post through Wilfried Zaha and threatened on the break, but their miserable run continued, with the decision to sack Patrick Vieira not paying immediate dividends.
Granit Xhaka made it 3-0 with a scruffy finish from Leandro Trossard’s incisive through ball to put Arsenal in complete control. Palace midfielder Jeffrey Schlupp did at least score their first Premier League goal for a month by smashing in a loose ball from a corner, but Saka lashed in Kieran Tierney’s cutback to make it 4-1 soon after.
Palace are just three points above the relegation zone despite being in 12th place. By contrast, Mikel Arteta’s side have now notched up 69 points to reach their same points tally as last season in 10 games fewer. Here are the talking points from the match at the Emirates Stadium.
Martinelli has become a figurehead for Arsenal in recent weeks. With Gabriel Jesus and Eddie Nketiah both sidelined, the Brazilian has stepped up to the plate to provide goals with regularity.
Still only 21 years old, Martinelli is now established as a top-class Premier League striker, with his goal here taking him onto 13 for the season – only Erling Haaland (28), Harry Kane (21), Ivan Toney (16) and Marcus Rashford (14) have more.
Despite the huge burden of starting week-in, week-out, Martinelli still looks razor sharp inside the box. His finish showed just how dangerous he can be, with a good first touch, a quick change of direction and a devastating finish undoing Palace.
Like Martinelli, Saka is still only 21 years old, but his talent – and importance to Arsenal – belies his youth. He was absolutely electric against Palace, providing the cross for Martinelli’s goal, making it 2-0 with an assured finish from Ben White ’s cute pass and adding gloss with a second goal from Tierney’s pass.
Saka’s consistency is such that he now has 12 goals and 10 assists in the Premier League this season and has reached double figures for both statistics for the first time in the same season. The achievement is underlined by the fact that he’s the first Arsenal player to do so in a Premier League season since Alexis Sánchez in 2016/17.
Only Haaland (33) and Kane (23) have more Premier League goal involvements than Saka (22) in the Premier League this season. Meanwhile, only Lionel Messi (13), Kevin de Bruyne (12), Neymar (11) and Randal Kolo Muani (10) have more league assists in Europe’s top five leagues. His 12 league goals means he has overtaken his tally for last season, despite playing 10 games fewer, directly matching his team’s upward curve.
William Saliba had played every minute of Arsenal’s Premier League season before Sunday. The Frenchman’s injury in the Europa League defeat by Sporting on Thursday came as a major blow to the Gunners.
Rob Holding came on for Saliba earlier in the week and he took his place against Palace, lining up alongside Gabriel Magalhaes to form a fresh centre-back partnership. The unfamiliar sight made some Arsenal fans uneasy – and there were some worrying signs early on.
Holding was guilty of diving in unsuccessfully to try and win the ball early on, with Zaha then hitting the post after cutting inside White. The 27-year-old was afforded a lot of time on ball by Palace and looked assured with it.
As Palace’s threat faded, Holding became more comfortable and passed his audition as Saliba’s stand-in. Jakub Kiwior was brought on to make his Premier League table and make an immediate impression with a strong challenge when left one-on-one with Zaha, so there is pressure on Holding’s place.
Palace are in the worst form of any side in the Premier League. Their position of 12th in the league table does not nearly tell the whole story: they are in danger of being relegated this season.
Haaland hits five as Man City ease into Champions League quarters
Erling Haaland equalled a Champions League record with a five-goal haul to ease Manchester City into the quarter-finals at RB Leipzig’s expense as a 7-0 win for the English champions secured an 8-1 aggregate victory on Tuesday.
Haaland also set a new club record for goals in a season of 39 in the process as Pep Guardiola’s men reached the last eight for the sixth consecutive season.
City are yet to go all the way in the Champions League, but they have never had a striker of Haaland’s quality to make the difference in the latter stages before.
At just 22 he now has 33 goals in 25 appearances in Europe’s premier club competition.
The weather was more akin to Haaland’s homeland on a snowy night in Manchester, but City did not freeze under the pressure and kept their Champions League dreams alive.
The tie was delicately balanced after a 1-1 draw in eastern Germany three weeks ago, but a Leipzig side depleted by injury never looked like a match for their star-studded opponents.
Guardiola had kept Kevin De Bruyne in reserve for City’s 1-0 win at Crystal Palace in the Premier League at the weekend and on his return to the starting line-up, the Belgian was back to his best.
Ilkay Gundogan should have opened the scoring after just three minutes from De Bruyne’s inviting cross.
Haaland’s searing pace then created a chance out of nothing from Nathan Ake’s long ball, but Janis Blaswich raced out from his goal to block.
Leipzig did have cause for complaint over two controversial calls that had a massive impact on the game before half-time.
Firstly, VAR spotted a handball against Benjamin Henrichs that led to a penalty that neither the City players nor the crowd even noticed.
Denied record chance –
Haaland fired low to Blaswich’s left to maintain his perfect record from the spot for City with his sixth penalty of the season.
Two minutes later it was 2-0 as Haaland teed up De Bruyne, who smashed a shot against the bar, and then showed his speed and strength to power home a header from the rebound.
Leipzig could have been gifted a route back into the tie when Ederson sprinted from his goal to wipe out Konrad Laimer.
But rather than send the Brazilian goalkeeper off, Slovenian referee Slavko Vincic did not even award a free-kick.
Any doubt over the outcome was ended with the final action of the first half.
Ruben Dias rose highest to head Jack Grealish’s corner onto the post and Amadou Haidara’s attempted clearance ricocheted off Haaland into the net.
Gundogan’s classy finish into the far corner four minutes into the second half rubbed more salt into Leipzig’s wounds before Haaland started rewriting the record books.
Firstly, he hammered home at the second attempt after Blaswich parried his initial header to match Tommy Johnson’s record of 38 goals for City in the 1928-29 season.
Haaland set a new mark with still three months of the campaign to go when he snaffled up another rebound after Blaswich saved from Manuel Akanji.
In the process, he moved level with Lionel Messi and Luiz Adriano’s record of scoring five goals in a Champions League game.
But Guardiola denied his star striker the chance of another record as he replaced him with Julian Alvarez with 25 minutes remaining.
Instead, it was left to De Bruyne to have the final say as he curled a superb strike into the top corner in stoppage time.
Arsenal outclass Fulham after Leandro Trossard masterclass performance
Arsenal blew Fulham away with an electric first-half display to claim a priceless 3-0 victory in the title race.
After an even start to proceedings, VAR intervened in the 17th minute after the unfortunate Antonee Robinson knocked a rebound into his own net following sterling work from Gabriel Martinelli. But there was no dispute just a few minutes later as Gabriel Magalhaes towered above everybody else in the six-yard box to break the deadlock from a pinpoint Leandro Trossard corner.
It was two just five minutes later: Martinelli was on the spot to nod home Trossard’s looped cross, leaving the hosts with a mountain to climb. And the versatile Belgian forward was pulling the strings again just before the break; he found the space to pick out Martin Odegaard on the far side of the box and the Gunners captain did the rest with a composed finish.
While it’s probably fair to say that Trossard wasn’t exactly at the top of Arsenal’s New Year shopping list a couple of months ago, the versatile forward has more than proved his worth since his bargain £27million switch from Brighton.
After impressing in recent weeks, Trossard was once again deployed as a false nine and produced a record-breaking display to put Fulham to the sword in their own backyard.
After floating in the cross that led to Arsenal’s opener, Trossard ghosted into space to tee up Martinelli, who put the finishing touch to a slick passing move that started all the way back in the Gunners’ own half. And he stayed sharp right up until the half-time break when he showed great composure to pick out Odegaard, who sealed the points with an equally classy finish.
Odegaard’s finish means that Trossard has become the first player in Premier League history to register a hat-trick of assists in a single half of an away game. Overall, the ex-Seagulls star now has five assists in his last four games. He looks undroppable on current form.
If last weekend’s dramatic fightback against Bournemouth proved Arsenal have the grit required to end a 19-year title drought, then this performance underlined they have the class of champions, too.
After an even start to proceedings, Arsenal moved through the gears to leave Fulham trailing in their wake at Craven Cottage.
Arsenal have turned doubters into believers in recent months and the contrasting manner in which they’ve secured back-to-back league wins over the past week is further evidence, if it was needed, that they are going nowhere in the title race.
Manchester City ground out a 1-0 win at Selhurst Park to cut the gap to two points, but Arsenal’s classy first-half clinic has re-established their five point cushion at the summit. Over to you, Pep.
Set-pieces proved to be Arsenal’s Achilles’ heel on Thursday night, but the Gunners opening goal at Craven Cottage came from the same medium.
Gabriel managed to propel himself above a swarm of bodies inside a crowded six-yard box to power a header beyond his former teammate Bernd Leno just minutes after VAR had intervened to wipe out an own goal from Robinson.
Crucially, Arsenal were just as good at defending set-pieces as they were attacking them to thwart a Fulham team that boasts a number of aerial threats.
Arteta will be enthused, rather than relieved, after he slammed the Gunners’ defensive frailties in midweek. The onus is now on his side to prove this wasn’t a one-off.
Arsenal’s impressive first-half blitz capped a miserable week for Fulham, who succumbed to another derby defeat against Brentford on Monday.
The Whites sorely missed the steel that Joao Palhinha has provided this term and were cut open time and time before David Coote mercifully drew proceedings to a halt after Arsenal’s third strike.
Fulham have exceeded all expectations after winning the Championship title and are still in with a chance of capping a memorable season under Marco Silva with an unlikely European place. But they couldn’t live with Arsenal, who underlined their title credentials with a classy display.
The return of Gabriel Jesus to the Arsenal bench is a welcome boost to their title hopes – but the Gunners didn’t require his services at Craven Cottage.
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