Gabriel Jesus ended his goal drought after scoring in each half as he made his first Premier League start since November to guide leaders Arsenal to 3-1 victory over Leeds.
Having required surgery on a knee injury suffered at the World Cup, Jesus’ comeback had been a gradual one but it was completed just at the right time as he shone in a win which keeps Arsenal eight points clear at the summit.
The Brazil forward had not scored since October but converted a first-half penalty he had won himself and then added the third after former Leeds loanee Ben White had doubled the lead – Rasmus Kristensen pulling a goal back for Leeds before Granit Xhaka’s header secured the points.
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta had spoken about Jesus on the eve of the clash, saying his summer signing was ready to bring back the “chaos” that he had generated during a fine first few months in north London.
The Emirates Stadium had opened early to allow fans in to watch Manchester City’s game with Liverpool, with their title rivals eventually running out comfortable winners.
But it was an ex-City man who ensured the eight-point gap remained in tact as Jesus scored his first goals in 18 games to lead the Gunners to a straightforward victory.
Arsenal were slow out of the traps as struggling Leeds had a chance in the opening 15 seconds, Aaron Ramsdale forced into a good stop to prevent Kristensen breaking the deadlock.
Jack Harrison was next to sting the palms of Ramsdale before the hosts were presented with a fine opportunity to hit the front when former Arsenal youngster Luke Ayling caught Jesus with a stray boot having attempted to make a sliding challenge inside his own box.
Jesus dusted himself off to dispatch the resulting penalty straight down the middle of Illan Meslier’s goal, ending a six-month drought – which included three months out with a knee injury.
Ayling almost turned into his own goal as he fluffed his lines clearing away a long-range Gabriel Martinelli effort, the Brazilian aiming to score into an empty net after Meslier tore of his line only to play the ball straight into his path.
The Gunners doubled their lead early in the second half, White turning home a Martinelli cross at the far post for his second of the season.
Leeds pulled a goal back with 15 minutes remaining, Kristensen beating Ramsdale courtesy of a deflection off Oleksandr Zinchenko but there would be no grandstand finish as Xhaka headed home his third goal in as many games from a sublime Martin Odegaard pass.
The win kept Arsenal well clear at the top but defeat for Javi Gracia’s Leeds leaves them outside the relegation zone by a single point as he battles to keep the Yorkshire club in the top flight.