Smith Rowe strike downs Watford as Arsenal muscle in on top four return

Emile Smith Rowe Arsenal.2021.TEAMtalk31

A second-half strike from Emile Smith Rowe was enough to see Arsenal take all three points from a lively encounter with Watford at the Emirates.

The youngster struck 11 minutes into the second half when it seemed as though they might draw a blank all day. The visitors put pressure in the Arsenal regard as the game progressed but could not find the net. Juraj Kucka was sent off for a second yellow card one minute from time and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang missed a penalty for the home side.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta made one change from the side that beat Leicester City 2-0 last weekend. Thomas Partey replaced by Ainsley Maitland-Niles in midfield with Nuno Tavares keeping his place at left-back.

Watford boss Claudio Ranieri changed five of the starting XI who lost 1-0 to Southampton last time out Danny Rose, Nicolas Nkoulou, Ozan Tufan, Kiko Femenia and Emmanuel Dennis were all given the nod.

Arteta knew that an Arsenal win coupled with defeat for West Ham against Liverpool would see his side in the top four. And they made a bright start, with Alexandre Lacazette particularly lively.

The hosts had the ball in the next as early as the seventh minute. Bukayo Saka converted from close range but VAR ruled that he was offside from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s pass.

It was a big let off for the Hornets and Arsenal continued to pile forward. Aubameyang claimed a penalty on 20 minutes after going down under a challenge but the referee thought otherwise.

Chances were at a premium as the half wore on but Arsenal had a chance to take the lead from the spot. Danny Rose felled Lacazette but Aubameyang’s spot kick was well saved by Ben Foster.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang Arsenal 2021 TEAMtalk1

Watford had little to show in terms of attacking intent but Kucka shot just wide five minutes before the interval. The home side were dominant but could not get past an in-form Foster in the Hornets goal.

Smith Rowe finally beats Foster

And it was a similar story early in the second half as Foster kept out Albert Sambi Lokonga’s effort. Frustration began to creep into the Gunners game with Aubameyang the third Arsenal player booked.

But on 56 minutes they made the breakthrough as Smith Rowe finally found the net. The 21-year-old shot past the veteran from the edge of the box much to the home fans’ relief.

Joao Pedro replaced Ozan Tufan as Ranieri looked for an equaliser. And Watford immediately got more joy going forward, with bodies in the final third.

But they could not find a way through to goal as the hosts stood firm.

Martin Odegaard replaced Lacazette with 20 minutes to go as Arteta looked for more control. And the Norwegian should have scored just four minutes later.

His right-footed shot was heading in at the far post before Aubameyang stuck out a leg to help it in. Unfortunately, the Gabon international was in an offside position.

Watford continued to push for the equaliser in the last 10 minutes. Arsenal keeper Aaron Ramsdale was being called into action more and more, even if the quality of the Watford attacks was lacking.

And the former England Under-21 shot-stopper was almost the architect of his own downfall four minutes from time. He raced out to clear the ball but kicked thin air only for Josh King to find the side netting.

Despite being a man light, Watford bossed the final few minutes but Arsenal refused to buckle, holding on for a 1-0 triumph.