ARSENAL scored in the fifth minute of time added on as they edged out 10-man leaders Leicester City 2-1 on Sunday to cut the gap at the top of the Premier League to two points.
Substitute Danny Welbeck, who came on in the 83rd minute for his first appearance in 10 months because of injury, headed the winner to deny Leicester a point.
Leicester took the lead just before half-time through a Jamie Vardy penalty, his 19th league goal of the season.
But the sending off of Danny Simpson early in the second half for a second yellow card gave Arsenal hope and they equalized through Theo Walcott on 70 minutes to set up the big finale.
The win pushed Arsenal up to second, though Tottenham Hotspur could go above them if they win at fourth-placed Manchester City later on Sunday.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who said the team chanted Welbeck’s name when he returned to the dressing room, said the win was crucial to their title hopes.
“It was a pivotal moment today because the mathematics meant it could be eight points or it could be two points,” he told the BBC. “That is a great change.
“There’s a long way to go, we play a lot of big teams. But we had a bad spell where we couldn’t win for four games and have now won two on the bounce. We have come out of that bad spell and still have a good chance.”
Leicester were good value for their lead at half-time, though Wenger was annoyed at what he felt was a foul on Mesut Ozil in the build-up to the foul on Vardy by Nacho Monreal.
Vardy slammed in the penalty but the match turned when Simpson had to go early in the second half for a second bookable offence.
From then on, Leicester were under the cosh and Arsenal equalized when Walcott volleyed the ball home after a perfect cushioned header by Olivier Giroud.
Kasper Schmeichel made a string of outstanding saves but Welbeck then flicked home a header from Ozil’s free-kick to win it for Arsenal.
“This man hasn’t played for nine months and to get into the mix like that, special players come into big games. That could be massive,” Walcott told Sky Sports of Welbeck.
Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri questioned the red card awarded to Simpson.
“I don’t know if in a normal match that our two yellow cards was a sending off,” he said.
“They were normal fouls, but not yellow cards. I think the referee was too severe to us for the sending-off. Eleven v eleven, I’m sure we win the match. The match was full of fouls so why send off a player? Come on.
“We are still top of the table, got two points more – we must carry on and smile. We lost to our opponents – we must say well done.”
Bottom side Aston Villa are looking more and more helpless after they were humbled 6-0 at home by Liverpool.
Daniel Sturridge, starting his first league game under Juergen Klopp because of injury, opened the scoring with a header after 16 minutes.
James Milner, Emre Can, Divock Origi, Nathaniel Clyne and Kolo Toure scored the others to give Villa their worst home defeat for 81 years.
Liverpool climbed to eighth, three points behind the fifth, while Villa are still eight points short of safety. – dpa