England roundup: Arsenal stay on top; Leeds earn crucial victory
LEICESTER, England (AP) — Arsenal maintained its place atop the English Premier League by beating Leicester 1-0 thanks to Gabriel Martinelli’s goal early in the second half on Saturday.
Leandro Trossard, who had a first-half goal disallowed, slipped a pass through to Martinelli and the Brazil winger cut in from the left to poke a low finish just inside the far post in the 46th minute.
That ensured Arsenal will end the day where it began — in first place — with second-placed Manchester City behind by five points going into its match at Bournemouth later Saturday.
Arsenal has bounced back well from a three-game run where the team picked up one point to raise doubts about its title pedigree. Last week, the Gunners twice came from behind to beat Aston Villa 4-2 away and has won again in the Midlands.
Arsenal was hardly troubled at King Power Stadium despite being without holding midfielder Thomas Partey again, although the Ghana international did make it off the bench for the final few minutes after a muscle injury.
Trossard, who started up front in place of Eddie Nketiah, thought he gave Arsenal the lead in the 26th when he curled a shot into the top corner from the edge of the area following Leicester goalkeeper Danny Ward’s weak punch clear. The goal was ruled out, however. Replays showed Arsenal defender Ben White was holding onto Ward’s right arm at the time of his punch.
Bukayo Saka also had a goal disallowed in the second half, with Martinelli adjudged offside in the buildup.
Leeds 1, Southampton 0
In Leeds, Junior Firpo scored the only goal as new manager Javi Gracia launched his Leeds reign in style with a win over fellow struggler Southampton in the English Premier League on Saturday.
The Elland Road club’s first win since Dec. 26 enabled the team to climb out of the bottom three and left Southampton rooted to last place.
Scoring chances were few and far between until Firpo provided the breakthrough in the 77th minute when he shot low under Southampton goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu to claim his first league goal.
Leeds midfielders Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and Brenden Aaronson became the first trio of Americans to start together for a club in the league since Fulham goalkeeper Kasey Keller, midfielder Clint Dempsey and striker Brian McBride at Portsmouth in May 2008.
They were the first outfield players to do it since Dempsey, McBride and defender Carlos Bocanegra for Fulham at Middlesbrough in May.
Aston Villa 2, Everton 0
In Liverpool, Ollie Watkins scored for the fifth successive match as Aston Villa beat Everton 2-0 to end Sean Dyche’s 100% home record and drop his team back into the English Premier League relegation zone on Saturday.
Watkins’ 63rd-minute penalty saw him become Villa’s first player to score in five straight games in the top-flight since Paul Rideout in January 1985.
Substitute Emi Buendia made the win safe eight minutes from time to halt Villa’s three-match losing run.
In a game of two goalline clearances by Villa’s Tyrone Mings and Everton’s James Tarkowski, the first goal was always going to be decisive. While it was one of Watkins’ quieter games, Dyche must have looked on enviously.
The Everton manager, who had overseen wins over Arsenal and Leeds in his previous two games at Goodison Park, started with Neal Maupay — with one goal in his last 28 league matches — and later replaced him with Ellis Simms for just his sixth top-flight appearance.
The folly of ending the January transfer window without strengthening up front was laid bare as the toothless hosts, who have scored just 17 times in 24 league matches, dominated the game but just had no threat in the penalty area.
Their woes were compounded as wins for West Ham (4-0 over Forest) and Leeds plunged Everton back into trouble just when it looked like it was edging its way out of it.
Everton has not beaten Villa in eight attempts.