Arsenal took a huge step towards securing Champions League football next season as they saw off an ill-disciplined Leeds United, with the 10-man visitors dropping into the Premier League relegation zone.
It was a fourth successive win for Mikel Arteta’s side and one that puts them firmly in the driving seat for a top-four spot before Thursday’s north London derby at Tottenham.
But Leeds’ early capitulation was entirely of their own making, with goalkeeper Illan Meslier gifting the hosts an opener before captain Luke Ayling was sent off for a needless lunge on Gabriel Martinelli.
Eddie Nketiah pounced on Meslier’s loose touch to open the scoring and then finished a swift move to double the Gunners’ lead before Ayling’s rash challenge left Leeds a man down for more than an hour.
The Elland Road outfit did not have an effort on goal until Diego Llorente headed past Aaron Ramsdale in the 66th minute to tee up more of a nervy finish than anyone inside Emirates Stadium would have anticipated.
Leeds applied some late pressure, sending Meslier up for set-pieces, but the fourth-placed hosts were never seriously in danger of losing their lead and now hold a four-point lead over Tottenham in fifth.
Defeat for Leeds, coupled with Everton’s win at Leicester, means Jesse Marsch’s side slip into the bottom three with three games remaining.
Afterwards, Nketiah said: “It’s always nice to score but it was a big three points.
“We’ve been working hard and want to get it for the fans. It’s amazing to get the three points, it moves us closer to our objectives.
“Any player just wants to be playing and get the opportunities. I’ve worked hard throughout the season to make sure that I was read when I get my chance and credit to my team-mates for helping me play and do well. I’m just happy in the team and helping.
“We had a few chances in the first half to kill the game but we obviously didn’t take them. They are a good side, they are fighting for their lives down there and we knew that they were going to push. They troubled us in the second half but showed good resilience to stay with it and get the three points which is most important.
“It’s a great atmosphere throughout the whole season, it’s been excellent. You really feel the connection between the players and the fans, it’s amazing to be involved.”