Huddersfield (United Kingdom) – First-half goals from Alex Iwobi and Alexandre Lacazatte secured a 2-1 win for Arsenal at struggling Huddersfield on Saturday and kept the pressure on Chelsea and Manchester United in a three-way battle for a Champions League spot.
However, their Spanish manager Unai Emery still awaits his first away clean sheet of the campaign after Arsenal conceded a late consolation.
The Gunners moved to within a point of fourth-placed Manchester United, who beat Fulham 3-0 on Saturday, and level on points with fifth placed Chelsea, who are away at Manchester City on Sunday.
The opening goal owed much to good fortune, and bad goalkeeping, but was still just reward for an Arsenal side that had been steadily building pressure.
Three times, inside the space of as many minutes, the Gunners ripped through the left-hand side of Huddersfield’s defence, with a magnificent tackle by Terence Kongolo on Lacazatte denying what looked the best of those chances.
But on 15 minutes, Arsenal took a deserved lead from a free-kick taken quickly inside their own half.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan sent Sead Kolasinac away down Arsenal’s right and his hanging cross was met by Iwobi with a first-time volley which took a deflection off Kongolo but should have been kept out by Ben Hamer.
For a Huddersfield side without a win, and with just one draw, in their previous dozen league games, conceding so early might have been a springboard to disaster but their initial response was positive.
There was a strong penalty appeal from home supporters after a powerful shot from Jason Puncheon struck Laurent Koscielny, who clearly handled as the ball struck him although unintentionally, according to referee Jonathan Moss.
Not until the 39th minute was Hamer forced into a meaningful save, and that a routine one, as Mkhitaryan struck a weak shot directly at him.
The timing of the second goal, therefore, was particularly welcome for Emery who punched the air in celebration as Lacazette tapped the ball into an open net in the final minute of the first half.
Mkhitaryan’s break on goal ended with him being stopped by three defenders but he slipped the ball wide to Maitland-Niles whose low cross found an unmarked Lacazette for a far-post finish.
If Emery had appeared unhappy with elements of Arsenal’s first half play, he was even more animated in the opening exchanges of the second as his defence showed why keeping a clean sheet on their league travels had been beyond them to date.
Maitland-Niles suffered a rush of blood to the head and made an appalling clearance, directly to Adama Diakhaby, 25 yards from goal, whose first-time shot was dealt with, comfortably enough, by Bernd Leno.
Erik Durm’s deflected cross just cleared the Arsenal goal and Diakhaby almost turned in Jason Puncheon’s far-post drive as Huddersfield maintained their drive.
The home side finished strongly with Laurent Depoitre flashing a shot inches wide and Nacho Monreal being required to clear off the line from Karlan Grant.
And deep in injury-time, Diakhaby broke clear on goal, lifted the ball over Leno and watched as Kolasinac turned into his own goal via an unfortunate deflection.