London (AFP) – Arsenal’s nightmare restart to the Premier League season continued on Saturday with a last-second defeat at Brighton, while two of England’s lesser lights are seriously aiming for European football.
AFP Sport looks at some of the key things from Saturday’s action.
Leno piles on Arsenal injury woes
Bernd Leno became the second Arsenal player to be stretchered off the field in their first two matches back after his clash with Brighton’s Neal Maupay shortly before the break in their 2-1 defeat at the Amex Stadium
Leno screamed in agony, howls of pain that were all the more audible in front of empty stands, as he landed awkwardly following a clumsy challenge from Frenchman Maupay, who seemed to deliberately bump into Leno after the German had come off his line to comfortably claim the ball.
Despite his pain, Leno made his feelings clear to Maupay — who later scored the stoppage time winner — as he was carried off by medical staff wearing personal protective equipment, pointing his finger at him and clearly directing strong words towards the attacker.
Leno’s departure is another blow for Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta after vice-captain Granit Xhaka was stretchered off early in his side’s 3-0 defeat at Manchester City on Wednesday, with his team languishing in 10th, eight points from the Champions League places.
Fired-up Maupay gives Brighton lifeline
Maupay took aim at Arsenal on and off the pitch, firing home the winner that could be vital in the Seagulls’ battle against the drop and then taking aim at the Gunners post-match.
He was at the centre of a scuffle at the final whistle as tempers flared, but Maupay was scathing of his Arsenal counterparts, saying they “need to learn humility sometimes”.
“They were talking a lot… They got what they deserved,” he added.
Maupay’s goal, in the fifth minute of added time, gave Albion their first win of the year and four points from their two games since the campaign returned.
They are five points from the drop zone with all of their relegation rivals bar second-from-bottom Aston Villa, who host Champions League-chasing Chelsea on Sunday, having played this weekend.
Record-breaker Jimenez makes Wolves dream
Raul Jimenez left Wolverhampton Wanderers looking like genuine contenders to qualify for next season’s Champions League after bagging his 14th of the campaign in his side’s 2-0 win at West Ham.
Jimenez headed home the opener in the 73rd minute to establish a club record goal tally for a Wolves player in the Premier League and put them just two points behind Chelsea in fourth.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s team sit sixth and are level on 46 points with Manchester United following their draw at Tottenham Hotspur on Friday. They will be hoping for a win for their West Midlands rivals Villa against Chelsea.
Jimenez’s goal came from a combination that has worked well for them all season, with substitute Adama Traore setting up the Mexican for the sixth time this season with a brilliant run and cross.
Wolves’ remaining fixtures look relatively simple, with a trip to sixth-placed Sheffield United the toughest looking match before they travel to Chelsea for a potential showdown on the final day of the season.
Palace eye Europe bow
Another team in the hunt for Europe is Crystal Palace, who won their fourth match in a row with a 2-0 stroll at Bournemouth and moved four points away from the Europa League spot currently occupied by Manchester United.
Roy Hodgson’s Palace keep their fourth clean sheet in as many matches and kept a miserable Bournemouth side at bay with a solid display that is becoming a regular occurence with the south London club.
They have never played in a major European competition, with third place in 1991 not enough for a place in the UEFA Cup, and they have a daunting run of fixtures — they have to play Liverpool, Leicester, Chelsea, Man United, Wolves and Spurs between now and the end of the season.
“It is possible. We are not far from it,” insisted Luka Milivojevic, who set Palace on their way at Bournemouth with a superb free-kick.