LONDON, February 15: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored a hat-trick as Arsenal saw off a Leeds rally for a thrilling 4-2 win at the Emirates on Sunday.
Aubameyang had not started a game for nearly a month after having to quarantine after visiting his mother, who is suffering from illness abroad.
The Arsenal captain had scored just five league goals all season in a frustrating campaign for the Gunners, but he took full advantage of Leeds’ expansive style to score his first Premier League hat-trick.
Aubameyang opened the floodgates with a fine low finish on 13 minutes that wrong-footed Ilan Meslier at his near post on a day to forget for the young French goalkeeper.
Arsenal then saw a penalty overruled after a VAR review when Bukayo Saka went down under a challenge from Liam Cooper.
But just moments later Saka was upended again in the box by Meslier after he was caught in possession.
Aubameyang slammed home the spot-kick before Hector Bellerin’s powerful strike beat Meslier at his near post to make it 3-0 before half-time.
Two minutes into the second half it was 4-0 as Aubameyang completed his hat-trick with a header at the back post from Emile Smith Rowe’s cross.
True to manager Marcelo Bielsa’s beliefs, Leeds never stopped throwing bodies forward with damage limitation in mind as Raphinha forced Bernd Leno into a flying save and then dragged another good opening wide.
The visitors’ attacking intent got its reward just before the hour mark when Raphinha’s corner was powered home by Pascal Struijk.
Leeds had hope of a stunning comeback when substitutes Tyler Roberts and Helder Costa combined for the latter to cut the deficit to two goals.
It is little over 10 years ago that Arsenal famously blew a 4-0 lead to draw 4-4 with Newcastle.
But there was no repeat as instead Mikel Arteta’s men twice came closest to extending their lead as Aubameyang and Saka smashed shots off the post.
A first win in four games takes Arsenal above Leeds in the table into 10th, but they are still six points adrift of their target of a top-four finish.
Josh Maja double gives lowly Fulham 2-0 win at Everton
Fulham’s Nigerian striker Josh Maja scored his first two goals for the club to secure a 2-0 victory at Everton on Sunday as the visitors ended a 12-game Premier League run without a win and rekindled their hopes of avoiding relegation.
The result left Fulham in 18th spot on 18 points from 23 games, seven behind 17th-placed Newcastle United in the safety zone, while Everton stayed seventh on 37 from 22 after another lacklustre home performance.
Everton’s poor league form continued as they suffered a third home defeat in four games, while Fulham won at Goodison Park for the first time ever in the league after 22 straight defeats with Maja netting on his first start for the Cottagers.
The 22-year old striker was upbeat after the longest home winning run over an opponent in English top-flight history ended for Everton, who had beaten Fulham repeatedly since 1961.
“It is a big one, we came into the game wanting to win it and not had the results we wanted,” Maja told BT Sport.
“We took our chances when they came and put in another good performance again, we want to continue like this. For the whole 90 minutes the guys worked hard and stuck to the game plan.
“This is a night I have been dreaming about for a long time, especially last night, and I had a feeling it was coming and pleased it became a reality.”
Fulham missed a hatful of first-half chances before former Sunderland striker Maja, on loan from French side Girondins Bordeaux, slid in to steer home Ola Aina’s fizzing low cross in the 48th minute.
He made it 2-0 in the 65th with another predator’s finish, popping up in front of goalkeeper Robin Olsen to tap in a rebound from close range after Harrison Reed hit the post with a long-range effort.
Everton striker Josh King had a goal disallowed for offside in the closing stages which summed up the Toffees’ miserable evening as they failed to create anything meaningful up front.
Fulham’s ex-Everton forward Ademola Lookman was delighted.
“We kept believing,” he said. “At halftime we said we’ll do the exact same thing in the second half and we scored twice.
“It gives the team a boost of confidence and we’ll take that into the next game. I’ve said before if we stick together and put the ball in the back of the net, we’ll win games.” (AFP/Reuters)