Bakayoko Saka stars as Arsenal are eight points clear

Arsenal opened up an eight-point lead at the top of the Premier League as a brace from Bukayo Saka beat Crystal Palace 4-1 on Sunday. Gabriel Martinelli opened the scoring in the first half at the Emirates Stadium as the leaders cruised to their sixth successive league win. It was redemption for Martinelli, whose missed penalty in Thursday’s shoot-out against Sporting Lisbon condemned Arsenal to a Europa League last 16 defeat. Mikel Arteta’s side needed just 45 minutes against struggling Palace to erase the bitter taste of that loss. Saka followed Martinelli’s goal to double Arsenal’s lead before half-time.

Granit Xhaka scored the third goal after the interval and Jeff Schlapp’s reply was no consolation as the impressive Xaka’s second capped Arsenal performance was stylish.

Arsenal now have a substantial eight-point lead over second-placed Manchester City, who took a weekend break from Premier League duty after beating Burnley in the FA Cup quarter-finals on Saturday.

With a game at Arsenal and a crucial clash with the Gunners on April 26, Pep Guardiola’s champions will still believe they can win a fifth title in six seasons.

But heading into the international break, Arsenal have ensured that the fate of the title race will be in their hands in the final 10 games.

“I’m really happy with the way we reacted after the Sporting game. We showed a lot of determination,” Arteta said.

“It feels great, especially with the way we played and the results we got.

“The desire and energy impressed me. He should come back from the international break with the same mindset he had before.”

Arteta had particular praise for Saka, who is the first player to score at least 10 goals and 10 assists in the Premier League this season.

“The whole team played really well but Bukayo was really good today, he affected the result with his contribution,” he said.

“That’s what we need. We need the players in front of us to be firing and making a difference and today they did that again.”

After surrendering top spot with a defeat against City in February, Arsenal have responded impressively, showing far more maturity and composure than Gunners’ teams that have regularly faltered in recent years.

Arteta deserves immense credit for turning around a team that finished in the top four last season.

Less than a year later, Arsenal, the first English team to win nine London derbies in a single season, are in the sights of the champions-elect.

Arteta had labeled the Palace clash as the most important match of his managerial career and his players once again rose to the challenge.

They have ideal opponents in a Palace team reeling from their 13-match run of wins in 2023 and the sacking of boss Patrick Vieira on Friday.

Vieira was a key member of the Arsenal team that won the last title 19 years ago and Gunners fans chanted his name throughout the game.

Arsenal made the breakthrough in the 28th minute when Saka freegalled in the penalty area to pick up Ben White’s pass and pulled his cross back for Martinelli.

The Brazilian forward took a clever touch to round out Joel Ward before curling a clinical finish past Joe Whitworth from 12 yards for his sixth goal in his last eight games.

Saka made sure Arsenal’s relentless pressing paid dividends again in the 43rd minute.

He played the ball back to White and his return pass was perfectly weighted for the England forward, who scored a cool finish into the far corner from close-range.

Arsenal were massive and Xaka put the result beyond doubt in the 55th minute.

A brilliant exchange of passes around the Palace area sent the spectators into a tizzy, before Xhaka put in a deft finishing touch to Leandro Trossard’s through-ball.

Schlupp stabbed in Palace’s first league goal in nearly seven hours after Arsenal failed to clear a 63rd-minute corner.

But Saka had the last word with his 13th goal of the season, a fine first-time finish from Kieran Tierney’s 74th-minute pass.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and was auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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