Nketiah boosts Arsenal’s CL bid, sends Leeds into drop zone

Arsenal's Eddie Nketiah, left, controls the ball during the English Premier League soccer match between Arsenal and Leeds United at the Emirates Stadium, in London Sunday, May 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

LONDON (AP) — Arsenal’s five-season exile from the Champions League is closer to ending after Eddie Nketiah’s double secured a 2-1 win over Leeds to strengthen the team’s hold on fourth place in the Premier League on Sunday.

If it wins at Tottenham on Thursday, Arsenal will qualify for the Champions League with two games to spare after its fifth-place north London rival dropped points in a 1-1 draw at Liverpool on Saturday.

Arsenal moved four points ahead of Tottenham thanks to Nketiah’s two goals in the opening 10 minutes as Leeds dropped into the relegation zone.

The former Leeds loanee capitalized on a poor touch from Illan Meslier and tapped home. Nketiah’s second was a well-taken finish from 12 yards (meters), turning in Gabriel Martinelli’s low cross.

Leeds was reduced to 10 men in the 27th when captain Luke Ayling was sent off for a two-footed challenge on Martinelli. Referee Chris Kavanagh initially booked the defender before upgrading the card after being advised to watch a replay on the VAR pitch-side monitor.

Leeds gave itself a chance of a surprise comeback in the 66th when Diego Llorente turned in a shot at the back post but there was no equalizer from Jesse Marsch’s side.

There is a tight scrap to avoid joining Watford and Norwich in being relegated. Burnley is only above Leeds, and out of the drop zone, due to its superior goal difference with three games remaining, while Everton is a point from danger.