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Havertz has the last laugh

Updated: 2023-11-27 09:54
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Kai Havertz (left) and Eddie Nketiah celebrate in front of the cameras after the former netted a late goal for Arsenal to earn a 1-0 victory at Brentford on Saturday to send the Gunners top of the English Premier League standings at the Gtech Community Stadium in London on November 25, 2023. [Photo/Agencies]

Much-criticized German proves unlikely hero with late winner to fire Gunners top of Premier League

LONDON — Mikel Arteta saluted "adorable" Kai Havertz after the German sent Arsenal to the top of the Premier League with the last-gasp goal that clinched a 1-0 win at Brentford on Saturday.

Havertz was a Champions League final hero for Chelsea in 2021, but he has endured a torrid time since crossing London to join Arsenal in the summer.

The 24-year-old midfielder finally gave a glimpse of why Arteta splashed out 65 million pounds ($80 million) to sign him when he headed home in the closing minutes at Brentford.

Havertz's second goal for Arsenal was his first in his last 10 appearances, moving his team one point clear of second-placed Manchester City, who were held to a 1-1 draw by third-placed Liverpool earlier in the day.

"That is the beautiful thing about life. When you have challenges and you have to overcome them, it makes these moments much better," Arteta said.

"That is the reason the people reacted to him like that today. It is because he is adorable and he is a joy to work with. He fully deserves more than anybody to get that win."

Arsenal's third successive win in all competitions proved they have erased the bitter taste of their controversial VAR-aided defeat at Newcastle earlier in November.

Arteta's men had already won at the Gtech Community Stadium in the League Cup in September and they left it late before making it another successful trip to west London.

"I love winning and we are top of the table. This is where we have to want to be," Arteta said.

"When you have an opportunity to take a bite out of everybody you have to do it.

"I was really curious how the team was going to do. Winter has started, it was very cold and it is difficult coming to Brentford. I loved the way the team competed."

With on-loan Arsenal keeper David Raya not eligible to play against his parent club, Aaron Ramsdale made his first league start since Sept 3.

Ramsdale's father recently criticized Arteta's handling of the Arsenal goalkeeping controversy, with the England international surprisingly losing his place to Raya despite recording the second most Premier League clean sheets last season.

Nervy Ramsdale

But Arteta's faith in Raya was vindicated when Ramsdale, his confidence clearly affected by his spell on the bench, almost gifted Brentford the lead with a horrendous mistake early in the first half.

Trying to play out from the sixyard box after a back-pass, Ramsdale panicked under pressure from Yoane Wissa.

Ramsdale missed his kick and the ball rolled to Bryan Mbeumo, whose shot was cleared off the line by Declan Rice before Wissa stabbed the rebound wide.

Arteta refused to be drawn on Ramsdale's shaky performance, saying only: "I am really happy with the team and the way the team played and we kept the clean sheet."

After a slow start from Arsenal, they finally showed signs of life when Leandro Trossard headed Oleksandr Zinchenko's cross over before Gabriel Magalhaes nodded into the side-netting.

The Gunners thought they had taken the lead in the 42nd minute when Gabriel Jesus met Bukayo Saka's cross with a header that was parried by Mark Flekken and Trossard nodded home from close range.

But a VAR check decided Trossard was narrowly offside, giving Arteta another dose of frustration at the hands of the review system.

Brentford nearly made the Gunners pay for their lethargy as Neal Maupay's header was brilliantly cleared off the line by Zinchenko before the French forward poked the rebound wastefully wide.

That proved a crucial moment as Havertz came off the bench to win it in the 89th minute.

Saka's cross picked out Havertz's run to the far post and the German guided his header past Flekken as Arteta jumped for joy on the touchline.

City stumbles

It looks like Pep Guardiola has a fight on his hands in the Premier League if he is to win an unprecedented four titles in a row with Manchester City.

Goals from Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold on Saturday saw the defending champion knocked off the top of the table, with Liverpool securing a 1-1 draw at City.

Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool and Arteta's Arsenal are likely to lead the challenge to City's domestic dominance and Guardiola's bid to win an unprecedented fourth straight title in England's top tier. But threats lie elsewhere as well.

It is Klopp and Arteta who have experience of pushing Guardiola all the way in a long title race, with Liverpool the only team to break City's supremacy over the past six years when crowned champion in 2020.

Klopp has rebuilt the squad that won every major honor for Liverpool from 2019-22. And his new-look team served notice of its credentials by ending City's 100 percent winning home record in the league when Alexander-Arnold's 80th-minute strike evened the score after Erling Haaland's opener.

"For us I think we passed a test today, I am not sure if it was 'the' test," Klopp said. "Last year with a team that played long together we got completely under the wheels here (losing 4-1) and had no real chance. Today we had a chance."

Haaland hits 50

Haaland set a Premier League record by scoring 50 goals in the fewest number of games.

The Norway international reached that milestone in his 48th match. He broke the record held by former Manchester United and Newcastle striker Andy Cole, who reached that total in 65 games.

It was Haaland's 18th goal in 20 appearances in all competitions this season.

In a record-setting season last year, he scored 52 goals for City as the club won a treble of trophies — the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup.

But his latest goal wasn't enough to secure a win for City after Alexander-Arnold evened the score in the 80th.

Chelsea crashes

Chelsea's heaviest loss under Mauricio Pochettino prompted Brazil defender Thiago Silva to say sorry to fans.

"I'm devastated," said Silva in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, after the 4-1 rout at Newcastle. "I would like to apologize to everyone for the defeat, especially to my teammates who believe in me and support me every day. I take full responsibility."

The Blues have now conceded four goals in back-to-back games, following the 4-4 draw with City earlier this month.

The loss, which also saw Reece James sent off, ended the London club's recent revival after a run of just one defeat in eight league games.

"We didn't read the game from the beginning and we didn't play the way that we should or in the way we expect. That's very disappointing," Pochettino said.




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