Arsenal moved five points clear at the top of the Premier League with an elegant 3-0 win over Fulham, while Casemiro was sent off in Manchester United’s 0-0 draw against downcast Southampton on Sunday.
Mikel Arteta’s side had seen second-placed Manchester City close the gap with a win at Crystal Palace on Saturday. The Gunners responded with the kind of composed display that has been the hallmark of their unexpected title charge.
First-half goals from Gabriel Magalhaes, Gabriel Martinelli and Martin Odegaard, all set up by the influential Leandro Trossard, put Arsenal on course for a fifth successive league win.
With 11 league games to go, the North Londoners have the title in their sights.
Since falling out of pole position after a loss against City, which came during a four-game winless run, Arsenal have shown the value of potential champions with a strong response to that wobble.
It was Arsenal’s 11th win in 14 away league games this season, underscoring the durability and maturity that has them in position to win the title for the first time since Arsene Wenger’s ‘Invincibles’ in 2004.
There was more good news for Arsenal in the final 14 minutes when Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus made his first appearance since suffering a knee injury at last year’s World Cup.
With legendary Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger watching from the stands, the Gunners made sure their famous fan was pleased with their trip to Craven Cottage.
Gabriel put Arsenal ahead on 21 minutes when the Brazilian centre-back rose past three Fulham defenders to find Trossard’s corner kick with a powerful header from close range.
Arsenal were riotous and struck again with another air raid in the 26th minute.
Trossard was the provider once again, breaking through on the left flank before lobbing a cross towards Martinelli, who easily leaped past Antonee Robinson to head in from close range.
The Brazilian striker’s fifth goal in his last six appearances took him to 12 in all competitions, making him Arsenal’s top scorer this season.
Odegaard put the result beyond doubt in the waning seconds of the first half as Arsenal benefited from a more abject defending from Fulham.
Producing his third assist of the evening, Trossard’s cross reached Odegaard in the Fulham box and the midfielder, conceding too much space, controlled on his thigh and set up for a ferocious shot that whizzed past Bernd Leno.
– Woe to Casemiro –
At Old Trafford, Casemiro’s sending off forced third-placed United to settle for a nondescript goalless draw.
United are unbeaten in their last 22 home games, but this was a poor showing in their first league match since last weekend’s humiliating 7-0 loss to arch-rivals Liverpool.
Erik ten Hag’s side looked fatigued after beating Real Betis in the first leg of the Europa League round of 16 on Thursday and had to hold on by one point after Casemiro was sent off in the 34th minute.
The Brazilian midfielder’s initial booking for a high tackle on Carlos Alcaraz was changed to a red card after a VAR review.
It was the second sending off for the former Real Madrid star in eight appearances following his red card against Crystal Palace, leaving him facing a four-match suspension.
Casemiro’s emotional response to his premature departure made him need the consolation of his United teammate Antony as he left the pitch.
Southampton remain bottom of the table after their battle draw.
West Ham moved out of the relegation zone with a 1-1 draw against Aston Villa at the London Stadium.
West Ham, who started the day 18th, moved up one place but were still booed at full time.
Villa took the lead with their first shot on goal, Ollie Watkins heading in Emiliano Buendía’s cross in the 17th minute.
West Ham equalized nine minutes later when Said Benrahma converted a penalty awarded for a Leon Bailey push on Lucas Paquetá.
Newcastle host Wolves in sixth place in the last game on Sunday.