Aubameyang expires the spot to help Arsenal to overtake Manchester United | Soccer


After the low point of Rennes, Arsenal was found with the feeling of winning. After the euphoria of Paris, Manchester United experienced its first defeat in the Premier League under the orders of Ole Gunnar Solskjær. This hectic season continues unabated and, as the dust dissipated, the fight for places three and four of the high fly could not have been more appealing.

Arsenal had been abject in the 3-1 defeat at Rennes on Thursday night – in the first leg of the last 16 Europa League matches – but they found ways to keep their imposing form at the Emirates Stadium. It was not a vintage bet and they were grateful to the goalkeeper, Bernd Leno, but sometimes a goal from Granit Xhaka – assisted by a rare lack of judgment from David de Gea – and a penalty from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were enough to propel them above United in fourth place.

Arsenal is more than one point behind Tottenham, third and, to paraphrase his supporters in stoppage time, they come to pick up their local rivals.

The afternoon task was provided by the fan who ran on the field after converting the Aubameyang penalty to celebrate with the Arsenal striker. When he overtook United defender Chris Smalling, he seemed to push him and that's one of those moments when you wondered what was going on in the man's head and who you was grateful for not adding anything more serious.

United has just arrived from his miracle in the Champions League at Paris Saint-Germain and has a record nine out of nine wins in all competitions under Solskjær. But they could not locate the path that led the interim leader to the edge of a permanent appointment.

Photo: Chesnot / Getty Images Europe

Unai Emery had thrown the dice with his starting Arsenal training, thus illustrating his preference for foot football in his stadium. Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Özil had places in the middle – the latter playing a wandering offensive role – and Alexandre Lacazette and Aubameyang ahead. The last time Ramsey and Özil had joined the same team, it was September 29th.

Emery wanted to fight fire with fire and he enjoyed an early tonic when Xhaka scored his fourth goal of the season. The midfielder looked up, 25 yards from the goal, and decided to try his luck, cutting the ball with the outside of his left boot and summoning a surprising power with the technique. This was however the case for De Gea. He did not see it coming. In fact, he leaned to his left and, when the balloon started to fizzle in the other direction, he could not react.

Solskjær had welcomed the return of Nemanja Matic on injury while Anthony Martial was fit enough to be replaced in the 70th minute. The starting system was 4-4-2 with Diogo Dalot on the right of the midfield and Paul Pogba on the left. It did not really work, and he quickly developed it so that Pogba took a more central role.

United hit the carpenter twice in the first period and it was the first, in the ninth minute, that seemed like a missed opportunity. Pogba, Luke Shaw and the left center were custom-designed for Romelu Lukaku. The striker had scored twice in each of his previous three games and had tried to keep pace with the ball. The finish was not the cleanest, she plunged into the ground before climbing and hitting the crossbar.

The second was Fred, the low-level player, who came from outside the box in 19 minutes and kissed the outside of the post. Leno seemed to have covered it. It has not been easy for United in the first period, although it is the most menacing team.

Granite Xhaka of Arsenal scores the first goal of his team.

Granite Xhaka of Arsenal scores the first goal of his team. Photography: John Walton / PA

Marcus Rashford could not create a decisive touch after a center of Lukaku, while Lukaku seemed to have bypassed Leno after a shine beyond Nacho Monreal. The goalkeeper, however, reached out to defeat him. Rashford was also denied by an excellent Xhaka challenge.

United insisted on the second-half recovery and Arsenal owed Leno their lead. He was cleverly trying to face Matic's long ball in front of Lukaku before making another good save to prevent the Unirted striker.

Fred had spun the ball for Lukaku, whose first contact was a bit heavy, but he still managed to stretch and discharge from his shot. Leno, who was quickly out of line, saved with his foot. In the first phase of the trip, Laurent Koscielny threw himself in front of Fred's shot.

The Arsenal players did not feel configured to defend, but they did. Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Koscielny were noticed. The two central defenders put their bodies in danger.

The local team began to tremble around the time, as Aubameyang and Xhaka witnessed the goal before the penalty changed the complexion of the match. Lacazette had the position on Fred as he was entering the area and when United's midfielder leaned toward him, there was contact. Lacazette felt it in the back, he went down and the referee, Jon Moss, who had previously infuriated the local audience with a number of decisions, pointed the spot.

Aubameyang had missed his previous penalty, against the Spurs, who had won the game at the last minute, and he climbed to the center here, which was risky. De Gea, however, had gone in the other direction – not for the first time – and the bullet found its target. The invading fan gave a bitter note but, by that time, Arsenal knew he was mastering the points. Lacazette was lagging behind after a mistake by Victor Lindelöf and United's misery was total when Rashford went quietly to Leno.

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