Eddie Nketiah’s first-half brace was eventually enough for us to claim all three points, but it was far from straight forward, despite Leeds being reduced to ten men from the 27th minute.
Our striker scored twice in the opening ten minutes, and we looked to be in total control, especially after Luke Ayling was dismissed for a lunge on Gabriel Martinelli.
But Diego Llorente’s second-half goal from a corner ensured a nervous finale.
We started like a train though. Nketiah created the opening goal out of absolutely nothing. Illan Meslier pondered on a back pass just too long, Nketiah pounced, dispossessed the keeper and bundled the ball over the line.
The Emirates was bouncing, and within minutes Nketiah dialled up the atmosphere even more with his second.
Gabriel Martinelli deserves a huge amount of the credit for the way he hassled and harried away on the left wing, broke into the box and cut the ball back for Nketiah to sweep home first time.
We were 2-0 up inside ten minutes, and looking to maintain the frantic early pace. Martinelli swung in another deep cross but it was just beyond Nketiah on the stretch.
Cedric – playing at right back with Takehiro Tomiyasu shifted over to the left – was next to try his luck, firing over after Martin Odegaard’s cut back just evaded Nketiah.
A wonderful first-time pass from Odegaard set up Saka inside the box, but his powerful shot was straight at Meslier.
Leeds were reduced to 10 men when Luke Ayling was red carded for a reckless foul on Martinelli on the byline. The former Arsenal youth player went in two-footed on the Brazilian, and referee Chris Kavanagh’s initial booking was overturned after VAR intervention.
In the ensuing melee Raphinha was booked – you could start to see why the visitors had set a new record for most yellow cards in a Premier League season.
We were starting to camp out in the Leeds half. Martinelli squeezed a shot right across the line before Odegaard had a free kick cleared from underneath the cross bar by Diego Llorente.
We continued to dominate after the break. Martinelli twisted and turned his marker before shooting at Meslier at the near post, while Nketiah had a header from a corner blocked.
From Leeds’ first shot of the game they got back into it. Junior Firpo flicked on a corner and Llorente was unmarked at the far post to score past Aaron Ramsdale.
All of a sudden from a position of total control, there were now some nerves around the Emirates.
Leeds – throwing everything at the game now in their relegation fight – sent Meslier up for a late corner. We cleared it to Pepe but he couldn’t get it under control on the halfway line with the goal vacant.
Ramsdale had to make a late save from Rodrigo, as incredibly we were hanging on for the points.
There was no little amount of relief when the final whistle went. Four points clear, three games to go. The quest for European qualification goes on.
WHAT IT MEANS
The big one. We take on Tottenham Hotspur away this Thursday evening.
Our last two games of the season will follow away to Newcastle next Monday night, and we complete the campaign at home to Everton on the final weekend.
Copyright 2023 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.