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Arsenal clings to lead despite pressure

Gunners survive late Spurs onslaught to claim crucial derby win and stay a point ahead of City in tight, two-way title chase

Updated: 2024-04-30 09:10
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Arsenal's Gabriel and Jakub Kiwior celebrate with teammates after beating north London rival Tottenham Hotspur 3-2 in an English Premier League match at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday. [ACTION IMAGES/REUTERS]

Arsenal survived a late scare at Tottenham on Sunday to maintain its narrow lead in the race for the Premier League title.

A 3-2 win at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium ensured Mikel Arteta's team remained at the top of the standings with a slender one point advantage over defending champion Manchester City, which won 2-0 at Nottingham Forest.

Arsenal had to endure a nervous finish, despite powering to a 3-0 lead in a London derby that was supposed to be one of the biggest tests of its title chase.

"The last 20 minutes wasn't nice, but it was worth it," Arsenal forward Bukayo Saka said afterward. "We know it is a big derby and they don't want to lose 3-0 at home. Momentum shifted their way, but I am proud of the boys — we managed to get the three points."

An own-goal from Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and further strikes from Saka and Kai Havertz put Arsenal into a commanding position at the break. But, in the face of a potential rout, Spurs responded in the second half through Cristian Romero and a penalty from Son Heung-min in the 87th minute.

Under pressure, Arsenal held on and remains one point clear at the top, having played a game more than City.

The advantage is still with Pep Guardiola's team, which will clinch a fourth-straight title if it wins its remaining games this season. The treble-chasing champion responded to Arsenal's win with victory of its own at relegation-threatened Forest.

With Liverpool dropping five points in two games this week, it is pretty much down to a two-horse race to the title with only Arsenal left to challenge City's domestic dominance.

Having collapsed late on in last season's title race, Arteta's players look more capable of going the distance this time around.

An away fixture against its fiercest rival, Tottenham, was a major test of its credentials at this stage of the campaign. And, while Arsenal was guilty of letting Spurs back into a game that should have been killed off much earlier, clinging on to victory amid such tension was a test of character.

"Maybe last season that could have ended in a draw," Saka said. "We know City are an amazing team, but they are not perfect, we just need to do our job."

Forest felled

Arsenal's win meant the pressure was on City.

It was always favorite to beat a Forest team that is desperately fighting for survival, but without Phil Foden, who was ill, and Erling Haaland on the bench, Guardiola was without two of its big-game players in the starting 11.

An injury to goalkeeper Ederson also forced City into a change at halftime.

But, Guardiola's team looks to be in unstoppable form and a 2-0 win extended its unbeaten record in the league to 19 games, dating back to a 1-0 loss to Aston Villa at the start of December.

Back then, there were questions about City's ability to win a sixth title in seven years. While Arsenal may lead the way, City's title-winning know-how could make the difference.

So could Haaland, who stepped off the bench to score the goal that effectively killed off Forest's challenge.

Josko Gvardiol headed City in front in the first half, but Chris Wood squandered two clear chances from close range to score for Forest.

Haaland missed City's last two games through injury, but was quickly back on the scoresheet with a clinically taken goal just nine minutes after coming on as a substitute.

Among those in the crowd to watch were his father, Alf-Inge, and rock star Noel Gallagher.

The goal saw Haaland move clear of Cole Palmer as the league's top scorer with 21 goals.

"It's an important win, it does not matter how we do it, and it is good to be back," Haaland said. "We knew it was going to be a fight, and the pitch was not the easiest to play on, but we cannot complain, it is about winning and that is exactly what we did."

Bournemouth record

Without a win in its first nine league games this season, Bournemouth is now in the top half of the table and has set its own Premier League points record.

A 3-0 win against Brighton moved Andoni Iraola's team up to 10th on 48 points.

Bournemouth's previous best in the top flight was 46 points in the 2016-17 season under former manager Eddie Howe.

Goals from Marcos Senesi, Enes Unal and Justin Kluivert secured victory against a Brighton team that is going in the other direction after six games without a win.

Agencies via Xinhua

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