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23 February 2024

Arsenal stumbles again in comeback draw with Southampton

Published
By AP

 After throwing away 2-0 leads in its last two games, Arsenal came from two goals down just to draw last-placed Southampton 3-3 on Friday. Its grip on the lead in the English Premier League loosened further.
Late goals from Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka rescued a point for Arsenal at the Emirates but the hosts couldn’t complete the comeback when Leandro Trossard hit the crossbar in injury time.
A third straight draw for Mikel Arteta’s team after letting two-goal leads slip away at Liverpool and West Ham handed Manchester City the advantage in the title race.
Arsenal still leads by five points but City has two games in hand and the Gunners need a win against Pep Guardiola’s team at the Etihad on Wednesday to stay in control of their own fate.
“Nothing is over,” Arsenal striker Gabriel Jesus said. “We are still five points clear. They (City) have two games in hand. If we want to be champions we have to go there and win the game, that’s all.”
It was Theo Walcott, of all people, who may have derailed Arsenal’s chances of ending a 19-year title drought in the league. The winger, who spent 12 years at Arsenal, put Southampton 2-0 up after just 14 minutes as the hosts dug themselves a hole they couldn’t fully get out of.
Despite the late comeback, this felt like another two points dropped after Arsenal’s own mistakes handed Southampton the early lead.
Goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale gifted Southampton the opening goal after just 27 seconds as he played a pass straight into the path of Carlos Alcaraz, who controlled the ball before beating Ramsdale with a shot from just outside the area.
Another mistake led to the second goal as Arsenal gave the ball away in midfield and Alcaraz played Walcott through on goal. The former Arsenal winger beat Ramsdale with a low shot inside the far post for his 39th goal at the Emirates.
“We conceded an early goal that killed our plan but I think, apart from that, we played really good, we responded really well with the crowd,” Jesus said. “Now is the difficult moment. We are putting ourselves in some difficult moments in the games but it’s time now to stick together.”
Arsenal was in a similar position against Bournemouth in March when it trailed 2-0 before winning 3-2 thanks to Reiss Nelson’s injury-time goal. And it seemed like a similar comeback could be on the cards when Saka pulled the ball back from the right for Gabriel Martinelli to volley home from the middle of the area in the 20th minute to put the Gunners back in the game.
But Alcaraz added a crucial goal-line clearance to his goal and assist as he headed away the ball to deny Ben White an equalizer in first-half injury time after a corner.
And Southampton then converted a corner of its own in the second half when Armel Bella-Kotchap flicked the ball on toward Duje Caleta-Car, who was left unmarked at the far post to score.
Odegaard produced another goal with a shot from outside the area in the 88th and Saka equalized by converting a rebound in injury time.
Despite eight minutes of added time, Arsenal couldn’t find the winner as Trossard’s shot bounced off the crossbar.
Southampton stayed at the bottom of the table after a seventh straight game without a win, three points from safety having played a game more than its relegation rivals.