Player ratings: Ayling, Meslier moments of madness cost Leeds as Nketiah inspires big Arsenal win

Gabriel Martinelli dribbling in between Luke Ayling and Mateusz Klich

Arsenal boosted their Champions League qualification chances and enhanced relegation fears for 10-man Leeds United in a 2-1 win at the Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal took the lead early on, when Eddie Nketiah snatched possession from Illan Meslier on his goalline to finish against his former loan club. The same scorer was responsible for the second goal, still inside the first 10 minutes.

Things went from bad to worse for Leeds when Luke Ayling was sent off after a VAR check for a two-footed challenge on Gabriel Martinelli before the half-hour mark.

However, they gave themselves a surprising route back into the game when Diego Llorente got on the end of a flick-on after a corner to make it 2-1. But despite some other moments of pressure, there was no way back.

The win gives Arsenal a major advantage in the race for Champions League qualification, ahead of the north London derby. They are now four points above Tottenham with three games left. Victory in the next, against their rivals, could put them back in the big time.

Leeds, meanwhile, have dropped into the relegation zone. They are level on points with 17th-placed Burnley but behind Everton, who beat Leicester to pull away.

As stated, Leeds had Ayling and Meslier to blame for their costly moments. As for Arsenal, Martinelli and Nketiah were influential, as was Martin Odegaard.

Arsenal

Aaron Ramsdale: Didn’t have a shot to save in the first half. Beaten by Llorente when Leeds finally registered one after their first corner, more than an hour in. 6

Cedric Soares: Replacing Nuno Tavares in their only change from their most recent fixture, stood up strongly against Harrison. Got forward when the chance presented itself, with mixed success from his deliveries. Sucked into an ineffective space for the Leeds goal despite looking at Llorente first. 7

Rob Holding: A comparatively comfortable afternoon for Arsenal’s hero from the previous week. 6

Gabriel Magalhaes: Took some time to settle, being the first to misplace a pass and later the first to earn a yellow card. Not troubled too much by the opponents and defended well against their last chance. 6

Takehiro Tomiyasu: Shifted over to left-back so Cedric could play on the right, but looked just as comfortable. 7

Mohamed Elneny: Displayed a good range of passing, particularly by getting the ball in the air. 7

Granit Xhaka: Set the intensity by feeding the ball to assister Martinelli for the second goal. Often got forward to support other attacks. Did little to affect the set piece from which Leeds scored. 7

Martin Odegaard: Confidence flowing, broke the lines with his dribbling ability and trickery, including one backheel pass to set up a chance. His crossing and fancy footwork were also inspirational. 8

Bukayo Saka: Gave Firpo a lot to deal with out wide, putting him in trouble when he cut inside. 7

Eddie Nketiah: Showed sharp instincts to close down Meslier and bundle home the opening goal. Struck a second time moments later with a composed first-time finish. 8

Eddie Nketiah dispossessing Illan Meslier to score for Arsenal

Gabriel Martinelli: Looked like something was going to happen every time the ball was at his feet. Inspired the second goal with a smart dribble, cut-in and set-up from the left. Kept causing problems by wriggling around the defenders, who couldn’t deal with him – as Ayling found out for the red-card incident. His finishing was the only blot on his record. 9

Substitutes:

Nicolas Pepe (on for Saka, 68 mins): Barely involved after his introduction. 5

Emile Smith Rowe (on for Martinelli, 78): Quickly got up to the tempo of the game, getting involved in possession play and drawing a foul. 6

Alexandre Lacazette (on for Nketiah, 91): Introduced late, meaning Nketiah couldn’t complete his hat-trick. N/A


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Leeds United

Illan Meslier: At fault for the first goal, dawdling too long on the ball before Nketiah took it off him to score. Some better reactions prevented it becoming three before the break with a one-handed stop to deny Odegaard. 4

Luke Ayling: Was responsible for the pass that put Meslier under a bit of pressure for the opener. Given a tough task to deal with Martinelli and company down the flank. Sent off after a reckless two-footed sliding challenge on the Brazilian, consequently ending his own season. 2

Diego Llorente: Came to Leeds’ rescue in the last 10 minutes of the first half with a goalline clearance a dangerous Odegaard free kick. Gave them a glimmer of hope by connecting well to halve the deficit midway through the second half. 6

Robin Koch: Had little effect against Arsenal’s pressure. 4

Junior Firpo: Put under pressure early on by Saka, conceding a couple of fouls. Played his part in Leeds’ goal with a flick-on for Llorente, as he was sometimes a presence for set-pieces. 4

Mateusz Klich: Looked to spread the play when he could early on, before being booked for a challenge from behind on Xhaka. Taken off at half-time. 4

Kalvin Phillips: Quiet to start with but then began showing some fight with a couple of challenges. 5

Raphinha: Not his usual self, cut a frustrated figure. Lost his head during the VAR check for Ayling’s red card, earning a yellow of his own for excessive protests. Had to drop back into a wing-back role after a reshuffle, which was tough. Mercifully withdrawn on the hour. 3

Daniel James: Playing as a supporting striker and then the leading man, was not involved in a first half that ended without Leeds having a shot. Worked hard when moving back out wide after Raphinha went off. Put in some last-ditch defending to prevent an Arsenal counter attack when Meslier was off his line late on. 5

Jack Harrison: Ran into traffic whenever trying to get forward. 3

Joe Gelhardt: Handed a first Premier League start since December’s reverse fixture. Sacrificed within half an hour so Leeds could bring on an extra defender after Ayling’s red. 5

Substitutes:

Pascal Struijk (on for Gelhardt, 29): Allowed Leeds to change to a back three as an emergency measure after the red card. 5

Lewis Bate (on for Klich, half-time): Brought on at the break for just a second Premier League appearance. Gave a decent account of himself by looking to play. 6

Rodrigo Moreno (on for Raphinha, 60): Sometimes saw the ball after coming on but wasn’t enough of a focal point. 5