Arsenal rose eight points at the top of the Premier League as Bukayo Saka’s brace inspired a 4-1 win over Crystal Palace on Sunday.
Gabriel Martinelli opened the scoring in the first half at the Emirates Stadium and put the leaders on course to a sixth straight league win.
It was a salvation for Martinelli, whose missed penalty condemned Arsenal to a Europa League round of 16 defeat in Thursday’s penalty shootout at Sporting Lisbon.
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It took Mikel Arteta’s side just 45 minutes against a struggling Palace to quell the bitter taste of defeat.
Saka followed up Martinelli’s goal by doubling Arsenal’s lead before half-time.
Granit Xhaka scored the third after the break and Jeff Schlupp’s reply was no consolation as the influential Saka’s second capped Arsenal’s stylish performance.
Arsenal now have a sizable eight-point lead over second-placed Manchester City, who took the weekend off duty in the Premier League to beat Burnley in the FA Cup quarter-finals on Saturday.
With a game against Arsenal and a crucial clash with the Gunners on April 26, Pep Guardiola’s champions will still believe they can win their fifth title in six seasons.
Ahead of the international break, however, Arsenal have ensured the fate of the title race is in their hands over the past 10 games.
After giving up the top spot with a defeat by City in February, Arsenal have responded impressively, showing a maturity and composure that far surpasses the Gunners’ teams, who have routinely underachieved in recent years.
Arteta deserves immense credit for transforming a side that blasted their top-four spot last season.
Less than a year later, Arsenal, the first English side to win nine London derbies in a single season, are looking like champions-elect.
Arteta had described the Palace clash as the most important game of his managerial career and his players once again rose to the challenge.
Arsenal played a grueling 120 minutes against Sporting before the Europa League season ended in painful fashion.
Such a quick turnaround could have tested Arsenal mentally and physically.
But they had the ideal opponents in a Palace side now without a win in their 13 games in 2023 and rocked by boss Patrick Vieira’s sacking on Friday.
Vieira was a key player in Arsenal’s last titleholders 19 years ago and Gunners fans chanted his name throughout the game.
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Arteta had described Arsenal’s run-in as “11 finals” and he made six changes to refresh his team for the first of those hurdles.
Palace, led by interim boss Paddy McCarthy, almost achieved a shock lead when Wilfried Zaha’s shot hit the post, repelling diving Arsenal keeper Aaron Ramsdale and rebounding just barely on goal.
That was a wake-up call for Arsenal and they broke through in the 28th minute.
Saka twisted free in the box to collect Ben White’s pass and pulled his cross back to Martinelli.
The Brazilian forward took a clever touch to evade Joel Ward before passing Joe Whitworth with a clean finish from 12 yards and scoring his sixth goal in his last eight games.
Saka ensured Arsenal’s relentless pressure paid off again in the 43rd minute.
He returned the ball to White and his back pass was perfect for the England striker, who planted a cool finish into the far post from close range.
Arsenal were rampant and Xhaka put the result beyond doubt in the 55th minute.
A lavish exchange of passes around the palace left the visitors stunned before Xhaka deftly completed Leandro Trossard’s through ball.
Schlupp scored Palace’s first league goal in almost seven hours after Arsenal failed to clear a corner in the 63rd minute.
But Saka had the last word with his 13th goal of the season, a fine first finish from Kieran Tierney’s 74th-minute pass.
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(This article was not edited by News18 staff and is published by a syndicated news outlet feed.)
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