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Saka’s ‘ruthless’ finish leads Arsenal past squandering Leeds (video)

Martin Odegaard threads through a pass for Bukayo Saka, who rifles a powerful finish past Illan Meslier to give Arsenal the breakthrough against Leeds United.

Bukayo Saka’s smashed finish served as a most-necessary moment of brilliance as Arsenal dodged a game Leeds United to win 1-0 at Elland Road on Sunday.

The match was paused just after kickoff for 37 minutes to fix the referee’s communication system and good thing, they’d need it.


Patrick Bamford missed a penalty awarded by VAR and saw another penalty he won taken away by VAR for his preceding foul, and Leeds could not do anything with the better of play for most of the match in Yorkshire.

Leeds had 1.84 expected goals compared to Arsenal’s 0.54 but walks away without a point and 15th place on the table. Arsenal moves onto 27 points and will keep its place atop the Premier League table regardless of Man City’s result at Liverpool.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]

What we learned from Leeds vs Arsenal

You need luck to stay in a title chase. Arsenal got it: The Gunners played Thursday in the Europa League and looked like it. At points in the first half you might’ve convinced Mikel Arteta to take a draw, but Martin Odegaard and Saka teamed up for the 35th-minute goal that would stand as the difference at Elland Road.

Leeds continue trend of performing but underdelivering: Oh, Patrick Bamford. How did you not score? Even ignoring his low, wide, tepid penalty, Bamford only played a half but was credited with three big chances by Fotmob. He missed all of them. All of them! Throw in Rodrigo’s first half at center forward, and the position should’ve had a hat trick against the Premier League leaders. Instead? No goals.

More on Bamford’s brutal day: The frustrated center forward thought he’d won Leeds a second penalty and Gabriel Magalhaes a red card when he bodied the planted defender in the box and got a boot in the gut for his troubles. The assistant referee called a penalty and a red card on Gabriel, then took both away after VAR review. The decision to take away the penalty was righteous but the red card probably should’ve stood as Gabriel’s foul was retaliatory, yes, but nasty and dangerous.

Patrick Bamford

Tactical focus

Jesse Marsch told Arsenal to have the ball, mostly, and Leeds set up with a clear plan of what to do when it got it. That worked a treat and Leeds should’ve probably won the match. That the hosts only managed a draw will wear on Marsch and his men, but the fact is that Bukayo Saka made the most of a Rodrigo mistake and Leeds didn’t do enough with their opportunities.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Bukayo Saka goal video: Rodrigo error leads to powerful goal

Mikel Arteta reaction: Praise for Saka, second half struggles

Arteta on Saka: “That is what we want. Those front players, those young players, that they are consistently winning matches and affecting results and being ruthless in front of goal.”

What went wrong in Leeds’ chance-filled second half: “From the first whistle in the second half we started not at the rhythm and not making the right decisions time after time and we put ourselves in big trouble. Even in those situations though I love the resilience, the fight, the character and the courage during the game.”

Stars of the show

Bukayo Saka

Marc Roca

Martin Odegaard

Rasmus Kristensen

Luis Sinisterra

What’s next

Leeds goes to Leicester CIty on Thursday before hosting Fulham on Sunday.

Arsenal has a Europa League match at midweek, its scrap with Man City postponed, and is off to Southampton on Sunday.

How to watch Leeds vs Arsenal live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 9am ET TV Channel/Online: Stream via Peacock Premium

Key storylines & star players

Leeds could use a signature win to get this season back on track, results-wise, and there’d be no better way to get Elland Road even louder than toppling Arsenal. Jesse Marsch’s men have seen Jack Harrison, Brenden Aaronson, Rodrigo, and Tyler Adams shine. Now they need to get more goals.

For Arsenal, the question is if and when the club hits a major bump. Losing to Man United was a blip but the Europa League schedule is asking a lot of the first-place Gunners. Mikel Arteta was able to limit Gabriel Martinelli, Thomas Partey, and Granit Xhaka to 31 minutes or less at midweek, completely resting Gabriel Magalhaes and Gabriel Jesus in a 1-0 win over Bodo/Glimt in Norway. Will that be enough?

Leeds team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Archie Gray (ankle), Leo Fuhr Hjelde (appendectomy), Adam Forshaw (ankle), Stuart Dallas (thigh), Junior Firpo (knock).

Arsenal team news, injuries, lineup options

QUESTIONABLE: Emile Smith Rowe (groin), Mohamed Elneny (thigh), Oleksandr Zinchenko (calf)

Follow @NicholasMendola