Kai Havertz’s late winner sends Arsenal top while Frank rages over ‘dive’

EPL Sport

As Kai Havertz’s late winner hit the back of the net, the palpable sense of relief around the Emirates Stadium was felt no stronger than by the lone man on his knees inside the Arsenal half cupping his ears while daring to goad the travelling Brentford supporters.


For much of the game, Aaron Ramsdale looked to have single-handedly cost his side Premier League top spot with a mistake of epic proportions. But, as dread deepened among the home fans with every passing minute, Arsenal grabbed a crucial – and controversial – winner to ensure they head the table before Liverpool and Manchester City meet on Sunday afternoon.

That Havertz should be the saviour was fitting given the fine run of form that culminated with the German being serenaded by the entire ground at the final whistle.


“If someone had told me in the first two or three months [of the season] that the whole stadium would be singing his song with that passion for him it would be hard to believe,”

admitted Mikel Arteta.

His opposite number, Thomas Frank, was less impressed. Already booked, Havertz had appeared to fling himself to the ground inside Brentford’s penalty area in the 66th minute under a challenge from Nathan Collins which clearly made no contact. The referee, however, let the attempt to deceive him go unpunished.


“It was a clear, clear dive,”

said Frank.

“That should have caused a red card and he wouldn’t have been able to score the winner. I don’t think Havertz should be on the pitch when he scored.”


No one was more thankful that he was than the lesser-spotted Ramsdale. It was courtesy of nothing more than fortuitous loan regulations that he was even granted only his second Premier League start since early September – the other also coming against Brentford when loanee David Raya was unable to face his parent club.


The out-of-favour goalkeeper would have been desperate to catch the eye as he ponders a likely future away from the Emirates. That he did so was in no doubt, but in a most calamitous manner.


So dominant had Arsenal been for almost every kick of the opening half that the 1-0 scoreline they held in the final minute of first-half stoppage time was a scant reflection of the gulf between the two sides. Yet just as the referee was contemplating bringing an end to proceedings, Ramsdale dropped a clanger that will surely end any lingering hopes of resurrecting his Arsenal career, regardless of two brilliant second-half saves.

Under no pressure when Gabriel passed the ball back to him, Ramsdale’s first touch was sufficient to select the target of his choosing but his speed of thought was horribly lagging.


Lingering on the ball for an unfathomably long time, he paid the ultimate price when the tenacious Yoane Wissa flung himself in front of his much-delayed clearance. As the ball ricocheted back towards his goal, Ramsdale had a moment to ponder the cost of his error while watching it sail into the empty net. “You’re just a shit David Raya,” chanted the exultant travelling fans.

They had endured a torrid first half until that point, thankful to be only one goal behind, which came when Bukayo Saka laid the ball back to Ben White, who had ample time to clip a neat cross for Declan Rice to attack with venom. His header was emphatic.

Desperate for an uneventful second half, Ramsdale was called into action 10 minutes after the break when Ivan Toney unleashed a wicked bouncing first-time shot from 35 yards. It looked destined to fly over Ramsdale, who was positioned near the penalty spot, but his desperate backtracking dive was sufficient to palm the ball wide at full stretch.

To a backdrop of an increasingly frantic home support, Arsenal twice went close through Gabriel’s header, which was halted on the goalline, and a Rice long-range crack that curled against the intersection between crossbar and post.


Ramsdale – seemingly intent on filling every segment of his matchday bingo card – pulled off a blinding save to deny Collins’s header and, with hope slipping away, Havertz uncorked the bubbly.


“I’m really happy, especially because he is a person with huge personality and courage,”

said Arteta of Ramsdale, who was the last player to depart the Emirates pitch after acknowledging every section of the Arsenal crowd.

“An error is part of football. It’s how you react to it. Especially for keepers, it’s probably the most difficult position but he reacted in an amazing way. I’m not surprised. We really wanted to win for him.


“It felt great. We had to dig in and earn the right to win it. If you want to be up there you have to win these types of games.”


Frank insisted he was “so proud” of what he described as an “unbelievable shift” from his team. Should Arsenal continue on their eight-game winning streak, he may well reflect on just how close they came to upsetting the Premier League champions.

The Guardian