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Declan Rice’s header deep in stoppage time sealed an enthralling 4-3 victory for Arsenal over Luton Town to send them five points clear at the top of the Premier League on Tuesday.
Six minutes of stoppage time were almost up when Rice found space to glance a header into the net, sparking joy for the visitors and heartache for an intrepid Luton side.
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“Luton are a top side and they can’t be overlooked in this league for the quality they have,” Rice told Amazon Prime. “To score in the last minute and keep the momentum building, it’s massive for us. Those are the moments you look back on. What a game. To score the winner is an honour.”
There was little to hint at the thriller ahead in a low-key opening 20 minutes on a raw night at Kenilworth Road, but the game exploded into life when Gabriel Martinelli’s scuffed shot from Bukayo Saka’s pass put Arsenal ahead.
Luton responded five minutes later with Gabriel Osho powering a header past David Raya from Alfie Doughty’s corner.
Saka and Martinelli were both denied by saves from Thomas Kaminski, but Arsenal went ahead again just before the break with Gabriel Jesus heading in Ben White’s dinked cross.
Arsenal had not won at Luton since 1986 and they were rocked on their heels as first Elijah Adebayo headed in another corner in the 49th minute before Andros Townsend played in fellow former England international Ross Barkley eight minutes later to drill a low shot underneath Raya, who endured a difficult night.
Raya should have done better for Luton’s second and third goals, but his blushes were spared by his teammates.
The old stadium was rocking to its foundations, but Luton’s joy was cut short as Kai Havertz squared it up on the hour from a Jesus pass. Rice then left the hosts in despair as Arsenal again showed their penchant for late goals.
They have now taken nine points this season courtesy of goals in the last five minutes of games.
“Incredible evening. First of all, congratulations to Luton, their players, staff, the atmosphere they created made it a special night to play football and they made it very hard for us,” Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said.
“They are so good at set pieces and they made us really fight for the game and at the end it was a beautiful win.”
Luton remain fourth from bottom with nine points and while the defeat stung, manager Rob Edwards was rightly proud of his players, who gave Arsenal a real scare.
“Arsenal wanted a game of order and we made it chaotic at times,” Edwards said. “I don’t think that has ever happened to me, conceding that late to lose a game so I’m flat right now.”
Arsenal have 36 points from 15 games played with Liverpool on 31 and champions Manchester City on 30, with the latter two teams in action on Wednesday.