Saturday, June 20, 2020

Brighton hands Arsenal second successive defeat

Brighton came from a goal down to hand Arsenal their second successive defeat since the resumption of the league.

Arsenal’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League suffered a fatal blow as Neal Maupay fired Brighton to a last-gasp 2-1 win after Gunners keeper Bernd Leno was stretchered off, while Watford snatched a late 1-1 draw against Leicester on Saturday.

In the first full weekend of English top-flight matches since the coronavirus shutdown in March, Arsenal’s faint chances of finishing in the top four faded further.

Their cause wasn’t helped by the controversial injury to Leno, whose screams echoed round the empty Amex Stadium after he slid awkwardly when he came to collect the ball just inside his own penalty area.

The German seemed to twist his knee and was given oxygen during several minutes of treatment on the pitch before being taken off.

Leno appeared frustrated with Brighton forward Maupay, shouting and pointing a finger at him while being stretchered to the tunnel.

Maupay had been the Brighton player challenging Leno for the ball when he fell.

Already hit by injuries to Granit Xhaka and Pablo Mari in their 3-0 defeat at Manchester City on Wednesday, Leno’s departure was another blow to Gunners boss Mikel Arteta.

Nicolas Pepe put Arsenal ahead in the 68th minute with a superb strike, the Ivory Coast winger cutting in from the right and curling into the far corner from the edge of the area.

But Arsenal’s defensive frailties were exposed seven minutes later when Brighton defender Lewis Dunk stabbed home from close-range after Rob Holding’s attempted clearance bounced off him.

Adding insult to injury for Arsenal, deep into stoppage-time Aaron Connolly helped the ball on to Maupay and he kept his head for a fine finish.

Arsenal’s frustration boiled over and Matteo Guendouzi clashed with Maupay in a melee of players after the final whistle.

Arteta’s team are languishing in ninth place, eight points adrift of the top four, and may not even qualify for the Europa League.

Brighton’s win moved them five points clear of the relegation zone.

At a deserted Vicarage Road, Watford’s hopes of avoiding relegation looked set to be dented by Ben Chilwell’s superb 90th-minute strike.

But in a remarkable conclusion, Hornets centre-back Craig Dawson launched himself into an acrobatic effort moments later to claim his first goal for the club.

Watford climbed to 16th place, one point above the relegation zone.