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Arsenal climbs above Liverpool after beating Luton in Premier League

Arsenal Martin Odegaard, left, Kai Havertz - The Canadian Press

LONDON (AP) — Arsenal returned to the top of the Premier League for a day at least after dispatching relegation-threatened Luton 2-0 on Wednesday.

Martin Odegaard’s opener and an own goal by Daiki Hashioka in the first half meant it was a comfortable evening for the hosts as Arsenal provisionally moved one point ahead of Liverpool in the tight three-way race for the title.

Third-place Manchester City also stayed one point behind Arsenal after beating Aston Villa 4-1 on Wednesday, while Liverpool can reclaim the lead when it hosts last-place Sheffield United on Thursday.

Facing a team in the relegation zone, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta took the opportunity to rotate his team and made five changes to the side that drew 0-0 at Man City on Sunday. Bukayo Saka was left out of the squad completely after picking up a knock at the Etihad Stadium.

The game was still all but decided before halftime.

Arsenal took the lead in the 24th when Emile Smith Rowe won possession in midfield and fed Odegaard, who exchanged passes with Kai Havertz before firing a low shot inside the near post.

Smith Rowe was heavily involved in the second as well as he drove along the left byline in the 44th before trying to pick out the charging Reiss Nelson, with Hashioka turning the ball into his own net as he tried to prevent his opponent from scoring.

Nelson was making his first Premier League start since July of the pandemic-interrupted 2020 season and was initially announced as the goalscorer — to a huge cheer from the crowd — before it was changed to an own goal.

Luton has proven time and again this season that it can never be counted out of games, with Arsenal needing a 97th-minute winner from Declan Rice to secure a 4-3 victory in the reverse fixture in December after the hosts had twice come back from a deficit.

There was no such drama this time, though, as Arsenal easily saw out the win in the second half, with goalkeeper David Raya hardly troubled and Luton going scoreless for the first time in 19 league games.

“We managed to rotate and freshen the team up a bit. Those who came in did really, really well," Arteta said. “We scored two really good goals in the first half, in the second half, because of the way they play, we didn’t get the right rhythm."

Luton stayed in 18th place, three points from safety.


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