Luton Town 3-4 Arsenal: Declan Rice scores last-gasp winner

Luton Town 3-4 Arsenal: Declan Rice scores last-gasp winner as Gunners secure huge victory after two David Raya blunders threatened to cost them three points

  • Luton Town and Arsenal played out an absolute classic at Kenilworth Road
  • The Gunners won 4-3 right at the death after Declan Rice’s last-gasp header 
  • Man City are vulnerable, but come the spring they will put on the afterburners. Leaders Arsenal must seize their moment now – Listen to It’s All Kicking Off 

Precisely how much the header by Declan Rice in the seventh minute of stoppage time might be worth may never be quantifiable but safe to say it represents another significant return on the £105million Arsenal paid for his services.

Big players with big personalities make their contributions at key moments in key games. This is not the first time Rice has struck late since his move from West Ham but he has never struck later.

The contest had reached its bitter end. It had tilted one way and then back and as the clock ticked past the six minutes of stoppage time the officials declared and Luton Town supporters thought they had taken a precious point from the Premier League leaders for their survival fund when Rice appeared to nod in a cross by Martin Odegaard at the back post.

Cue riotous celebrations in front of the away end as the rest of this raucous old stadium fell silent, momentarily stunned. Luton had fought back to equalise twice and taken the lead in the 57th minute when David Raya allowed a shot by Ross Barkley to slither under his body. It was a bad night for Raya, who also flapped at Luton’s second, headed in by Elijah Adebayo.

Fortunately, for Mikel Arteta, his leaky team were in prolific mood at the other end of the pitch. Gabriel Martinelli opened the scoring and Gabriel Jesus added a second on half time after Gabriel Osho had equalised with a header from a corner. Kai Havertz scored the sixth goal of a pulsating game before Rice headed in the late winner from a Martin Odegaard cross.

Declan Rice scored a dramatic last-gasp winner as Arsenal beat Luton 4-3 at Kenilworth Road

Rice rose highest from Martin Odegaard’s cross to nod past a despairing Thomas Kaminski

 It sparked pandemonium among Gunners players and fans and capped a breathless encounter

LUTON 3-4 ARSENAL: Match facts 

Luton Town (3-4-2-1): Kaminski 7.5; Mengi 7, Osho 7.5, Bell 6.5; Kabore 6, Mpanzu 7.5 (Clark 88), Barkley 7.5, Doughty 7 (Giles 88); Townsend 7 (Ogbene 61, 6), Brown 6 (Chong 62, 6); Adebayo 7 (Morris 61, 6)

Substitutes not used: Krul, Johnson, Berry, Nelson

Scorer: Osho 25, Adebayo 49, Barkley 57

Booked: Barkley, Brown

Manager: Rob Edwards 7.5

Arsenal (4-3-3): Raya 5; White 6.5, Saliba 7, Gabriel 6.5, Kiwior 6 (Zinchenko 64, 6); Odegaard 7, Rice 8, Havertz 7.5; Saka 7, Jesus 7.5, Martinelli 7 (Trossard 64, 7).

Substitutes not used: Ramsdale, Nketiah, Soares, Jorginho, Elneny, Walters

Scorer: Martinelli 20, Jesus 45, Havertz 60, Rice 90+7

Booked: Jesus

Manager: Mikel Arteta 6.5

Attendance: 11,112

Referee: Sam Barrott 6.5

Arsenal’s blushes were spared. They moved five points clear at the top of the Premier League and won at Luton for the first time in 11 attempts, a sequence stretching back almost 40 years.

Raya’s mistakes will refuel the debate about goalkeepers. Should managers prioritise one with an extravagant passing range or one who keeps the ball out of the net effectively? But it is easier for Arteta to field those questions with three more points on the board and his forwards finally finding form.

Luton hustled and snapped into the contest but could only hold out for 20 minutes before Martinelli struck with a goal owing plenty to Jesus who instigated the chance as he chased a lost cause, closing down goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski and forcing him to kick into touch.

Jesus sprinted to collect the ball, picked it up and threw it quickly back into play to Bukayo Saka, making his 200th appearance for Arsenal. Saka found Martinelli arriving to on the run to sweep into the bottom corner in only his second Premier League goal of the season. His first since was winner against Manchester City in October.

They were ahead for only five minutes before Osho levelled with a header from a corner.

Arteta seemed to go for extra height and physical presence with his team selection. No doubt, he was conscious of Luton’s aerial threat especially from set-pieces. Ben White and Jakub Kiwior were back in the defence and Havertz was preferred to Leandro Trossard in midfield.

But Martinelli was marking Osho as they contested Alfie Doughty’s corner and the Brazilian striker was easily shrugged aside by the tall centre-half who headed the chance past Raya without even needing to jump. It was his first Premier League goal.

Gabriel Martinelli opened the scoring after 20 minutes as the Gunners made the perfect start

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The Brazilian fired home smartly after Bukayo Saka cut the ball back from the right hand side

However, Luton hit back as Gabriel Osho (left) rifled a powerful header past David Raya

It was Osho’s (right) first Premier League goal and sent Kenilworth Road into bedlam

Like Arteta, Luton boss Rob Edwards had made changes. Both managers keen to stress their caution as they plunge into the congested festive programme. Captain Tom Lockyer was absent, injured on Saturday at Brentford. Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu celebrated his 10th anniversary as a Luton player by leading his side out against the team he supported as a boy.

The Kenny roared but Arsenal were not about to be intimidated. In fact, they responded well. Kaminiski made saves, first to deny Jesus from a tight angle and then to push another Martinelli shot over, but could do nothing to stop the goal conceded just before half time.

White charged onto a pass down the right and clipped a cross to the back post where Jesus sprang unmarked and head into an open goal. If Martinelli was overdue a goal in the Premier League then Jesus certainly was too. This was his first for three months, since scoring against Manchester United.

Luton hit back for the second time five minutes into the second half. Again, it came from a corner delivered by Doughty. This time, it was Adebayo climbing high above Raya to head in from close range.

Gabriel Jesus then restored Arsenal’s lead after nodding home Ben White’s dangerous cross

Elijah Adebayo levelled the scoring in dramatic fashion as David Raya flapped at a cross

Raya was then at fault again as he allowed a Ross Barkley shot to squirm under his body

Kai Havertz almost immediately equalised as he prodded the ball past Thomas Kaminski

The goalkeeper may have more composure and poise with the ball at his feet but he did not was not a commanding presence under the high ball. Aaron Ramsdale looked on from the bench. 

Luton took the lead for the first time through Barkley who started the move himself by skipping past Martin Odegaard on halfway and traded passes with Andros Townsend. Collecting the return, Barkley made a yard on White and went for goal.

Raya could not get down quickly enough to keep it out but the lead was short-lived. Jesus chased a long ball over the top from Saka and found Havertz who poked the bouncing ball past Kaminski. It was a soft goal from Luton’s angle and guaranteed a frantic closing period.

Arsenal moved into the ascendancy as the hosts flagged. Leandro Trossard fired one shot over and flashed another effort wide from 20 yards. Luton survived a nervous wait for a VAR check and Kaminski tipped over a header from Havertz then came Rice bursting into the box to apply the finishing touch to a breathless game.

Raya’s two errors only increased the scrutiny on his position and almost cost Arsenal the win

Barkley continues to impress on his return to English football since joining Luton this summer

But it was heartbreak for the Hatters who pushed Arsenal all the way to the end of the game


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