Arsenal knocks off stubborn Brentford, tops EPL

In a dramatic turn of events, Arsenal surged to the top of the Premier League with Kai Havertz’s late heroics securing a vital 2-1 victory against Brentford on Saturday.

Despite a tense moment when goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale gifted an equalizer to Yoane Wissa, Havertz’s decisive header four minutes from time ensured Arsenal’s triumph at a jubilant Emirates Stadium.

Declan Rice had initially put Arsenal ahead early in the first half, but Ramsdale’s error just before half-time threatened to derail their aspirations.

Nevertheless, Havertz’s late intervention ensured Arsenal capitalized on their opportunity to claim the top spot in the league.

The North Londoners’ eighth successive league victory lifted them one point clear of previous leaders Liverpool.

Arsenal will stay top on goal difference if second-placed Liverpool and third-placed Manchester City draw in their blockbuster clash at Anfield on Sunday.

The much-maligned Havertz’s ninth goal since his move from Chelsea underlined Arsenal’s hunger to make amends for blowing an eight-point lead in the title race last season.

It is crunch time for Arsenal’s dreams of a first Premier League title since 2004 and a maiden Champions League triumph.

On Tuesday, they will try to turn around a 1-0 deficit against Porto in the Champions League last 16 second leg, while their next Premier League game is at Manchester City on March 31.

Revitalised by a January training camp in Dubai, the Gunners have scored 33 goals and conceded just four during their blistering winning streak.

A 6-0 rout of Sheffield United on Monday maintained Arsenal’s powerful surge and they were quickly on the attack against Brentford.

Monopolising possession in metronomic fashion, Arsenal squeezed Brentford deeper and deeper before taking the lead in the 19th minute.

Ben White whipped over a perfectly weighted cross from the right and Rice rose highest to thump a header past Brentford keeper Mark Flekken from 10 yards.

It was the former West Ham midfielder’s sixth goal of his impressive first season with the Gunners.

Leandro Trossard’s long-range blast was well held by Flekken, but Arsenal were so dominant it seemed only a matter of time until they scored again.

Instead, Ramsdale’s blunder stunned the Emirates into silence in first-half stoppage-time.

Gabriel’s back-pass should have been dealt with by the Arsenal keeper, but he took too long to clear inside his six-yard box, allowing Wissa to close him down and make a sliding block that deflected the ball into the net.

Ramsdale looked distraught as he scooped up the ball and several team-mates made a point of consoling him as he trudged towards the tunnel at half-time.

Ramsdale was making his first league start since the Gunners’ last meeting with Brentford on November 25 because Arsenal’s first-choice keeper David Raya was ineligible to face his parent club.

The England international was applauded by Arsenal supporters when he reemerged for the second half.

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That show of faith did not look like it would be repaid when Ramsdale’s nervous punch fell to Vitaly Janelt, whose shot flew wide.

But Ramsdale partially redeemed himself with a superb save to keep out an audacious effort from Ivan Toney that was heading for the top corner from 30 yards out.

As the tension mounted, Ramsdale made another fine save to tip over Collins’ close-range header.

Rice was inches away from restoring Arsenal’s lead with a curler that hit the bar from the edge of the area.

With time running out, Havertz struck in the 86th minute.

He found space in the six-yard box to meet White’s cross with a powerful header that sparked wild celebrations from Arteta on the touchline as Arsenal’s title dreams live on.

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