After just 23 seconds, the game was delayed by 38 minutes due to a power outage but not long after the restart, Bukayo Saka fired home the winner by punishing Rodrigo’s audacious and inaccurate cross-pitch pass, exchanging a one-two with Martin Odegaard before smashing it past Illan Meslier.
VAR awarded the home side a penalty on the hour mark when William Saliba was adjudged to have handled the ball inside the box but substitute Patrick Bamford dragged his effort well wide. Leeds would pile on more pressure until there was last-minute drama, thanks again to the referee and VAR.
Chris Kavanagh sent off Gabriel for what looked to be a kick at Bamford and handed them a second spot kick but both incidents were overturned after he reviewed them on the pitch side monitor.
Amongst all the mayhem, there was potentially an unsung hero in the form of Pascal Struijk, who gave Saka and Gabriel Jesus nothing all game. Of course, the England superstar did score the all-important goal, cutting in from the Dutchman’s side, but he was hardly at fault for Rodrigo’s moment of pure stupidity.
Aside from that, the 23-year-old pocketed the dynamic winger as seen by his defensive returns – per SofaScore, the makeshift left-back registered four tackles (third-most in the game), as well as two interceptions, whilst he also won seven of his 12 duels (58.3%), both in the air and on the ground.
LeedsLive journalist Beren Cross described it as “an excellent performance” as he “gave one of the league’s best forwards nothing,” and he wasn’t the only one impressed as Yorkshire Evening Post’s chief football writer Graham Smyth dubbed him “tremendous” and “really, really good.”
Indeed, Saka – who is one of the Gunners’ biggest threats, averaging the second-highest WhoScored rating at the Emirates Stadium – had a tough day besides the goal, having lost 60% of his battles, whilst a 58% passing accuracy from 26 passing attempts is nothing to shout home about either.
He also lost possession 15 times from 40 touches, almost once every other touch, which is pretty poor going.
Therefore, the £29k-per-week colossus, who has previously been dubbed a “monster” by journalist Daniel Fraiz-Martinez, was arguably the one big shining light from a frustrating afternoon at Elland Road.