LONDON (AP) — Gabriel Jesus ended a six-month scoring drought by netting twice as Premier League leader Arsenal beat Leeds 4-1 on Saturday to maintain some breathing space atop the standings.
Jesus converted a first-half penalty for his first goal since Oct. 1 to give Arsenal the lead, and then made it 3-0 with a simple finish from close range in the 55th. The Brazilian striker had played 17 games for club and country without a goal, a stretch that was also interrupted by a lengthy spell on the sidelines after being injured at the World Cup.
“I want to score every game,” Jesus said. “But sometimes it can’t happen. I am more happy with the three points than the goals.”
Ben White added the second goal shortly after the halftime break and Granit Xhaka headed in a late fourth as Arsenal maintained an eight-point gap over defending champion Manchester City, which has a game in hand.
Leeds pulled a goal back with a deflected shot by Rasmus Kristensen to make it 3-1 in the 76th, but the loss leaves the visitors just a point above the relegation zone.
After City battered Liverpool 4-1 in the early game, Arsenal was under pressure to respond but nearly went behind inside 10 seconds for the second time in its last three home league games. Leeds almost replicated Bournemouth’s feat of scoring straight from the kickoff at the Emirates with a quick attack down the right flank, but Arsenal goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale kept out Kristensen’s shot that time.
Bukayo Saka was on the bench for Arsenal for the first time in the league since December 2021 because of a minor illness, and the Gunners’ attack seemed to lack its normal fluidity for the opening 30 minutes — although Jesus wasted a great chance in the 11th when he headed over the bar from six yards out. Instead it was Ramsdale that had saves to make as he had to deny Crysencio Summerville and Jack Harrison in quick succession shortly after the half-hour mark.
But Arsenal went ahead after Luke Ayling tripped Jesus in the area and the Brazilian converted the spot kick by sending Illan Meslier the wrong way and slotting his shot down the middle.
It was all Arsenal in the second half, as White was on hand at the far post to steer in a low cross from Gabriel Martinelli in the 47th to double the lead.
Jesus then played a neat interchange with Leandro Trossard, who broke into the area and squared the ball back for the striker to toe-poke into the net from six yards out.
It was Jesus’ first league start since November following surgery on a knee injury sustained at the World Cup.
“So happy for him, and everybody who contributed to having him in the state that he is at the moment,” Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said. “Because he put so much work (into) it. He brings that quality, that unpredictability to the squad.”
While Kristensen gave the visitors some hope when his shot deflected off the back of Oleksandr Zinchenko to wrongfoot Ramsdale, Arsenal responded with a rare headed goal from Xhaka, as the Switzerland midfielder met a cross from Martin Odegaard to seal the win.