Eddie Nketiah boosted Arsenal’s bid to finish in the Premier League’s top four with a brace in their 2-1 win against Leeds as the Yorkshire club dropped into the relegation zone after Everton’s 2-1 victory at Leicester on Sunday.
While second-placed Manchester City waited for their chance to go three points clear of leaders Liverpool with a win against Newcastle later on Sunday, the focus in the day’s early games was on the top four and the relegation battle.
Nketiah netted twice in the first 10 minutes at the Emirates Stadium as Mikel Arteta’s side earned their fourth successive win.
Leeds had skipper Luke Ayling sent off and, although Diego Llorente got one back, it was too little, too late for Jesse Marsch’s strugglers.
Fourth-placed Arsenal are four points clear of fifth-placed Tottenham, with three games left for both teams in the race to qualify for next season’s Champions League via a top-four finish.
Tottenham’s gritty 1-1 draw at Liverpool on Saturday had kept them in the hunt, but Arsenal will visit their north London rivals on Thursday knowing a win would guarantee they finish above Antonio Conte’s men.
Arteta signed a three-year contract extension on Friday and he is on course to repay that faith by leading Arsenal to their first Champions League campaign since 2016-17.
Nketiah spent time on loan at Leeds earlier in his career, but the Arsenal forward showed no mercy to his old club.
In the fifth minute, Nketiah punished a poor touch from Illan Meslier, closing down the Leeds keeper and tapping into the empty net.
Nketiah hardly celebrated out of respect for Leeds, but he struck again five minutes later, this time meeting Gabriel Martinelli’s cross with a fine finish from 12 yards.
A dismal day for Leeds took another turn for the worse in the 27th minute as Ayling was sent off after a VAR review of his crude lunge on Martinelli.
Llorente reduced the deficit with a smart finish from Leeds’ first corner in the 66th minute, but Arsenal held on.
Leeds sit third bottom of the table due to having a worse goal difference than Burnley.
– Everton out of bottom three –
Everton made the most of Leeds’ stumble as they beat Leicester to secure a second consecutive win.
Frank Lampard’s side arrived at the King Power Stadium with just one win and three draws from 16 away games, including losses in their last seven matches on their travels.
But Lampard and his players were given a rousing send-off by Everton fans outside the club’s Finch Farm training ground when they left for Leicester on Sunday morning.
Everton responded to that show of support with a dream start.
Ukrainian left-back Vitaliy Mykolenko ran onto Alex Iwobi’s flick and netted with a stunning volley from the edge of the area in the sixth minute.
Everton surrendered the lead five minutes later as Yerry Mina and Seamus Coleman went up for a header, only to collide and allow Patson Daka to run through and beat Jordan Pickford.
However, Mason Holgate won it for Everton in the 30th minute, the defender converting the rebound after Kasper Schmeichel saved Richarlison’s header.
Everton, hoping to avoid playing in the second tier for the first time since 1954, are one point above the relegation zone with a game in hand.
West Ham crushed relegated Norwich 4-0 at Carrow Road to ease the pain of their Europa League semi-final defeat at Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday.
Said Benrahma put West Ham in front after 12 minutes when his shot deflected off Max Aarons and squirmed past Norwich keeper Tim Krul.
Michail Antonio doubled West Ham’s advantage after 30 minutes with his first league goal since January 1.
Benrahma bagged the third on the stroke of half-time and Manuel Lanzini converted a 65th minute penalty after Jacob Sorensen’s handball.