RICE STRIKES LATE AS ARSENAL EDGE LUTON IN THRILLER TO GO FIVE CLEAR

Declan Rice struck with a last-gasp header to break Luton hearts and send Arsenal five points clear at the top of the Premier League after a thrilling 4-3 victory for Mikel Arteta's team at Kenilworth Road.

The Gunners looked to be missing out on the chance to extend their lead over Liverpool and Man City after a battling display from Luton, but Rice's header 23 seconds into the seventh minute of a minimum of six additional minutes sparked dramatic celebrations amongst the Arsenal fans and players.

Rice, speaking after the game, described it as a big moment in Arsenal's season.

"Luton are a top side, they can no way be overlooked in this league because of the quality they've got," Rice said.

"They made us pay tonight [Tuesday] with set pieces, us being sloppy at the back but for us to score last minute and keep that momentum building is massive for us in this season."

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Luton went toe to toe with the league leaders in the early stages, but Arsenal pounced after Thomas Kaminski had to kick the ball out of play following a poor back pass, Bukayo Saka teeing up Gabriel Martinelli for the 20th-minute opener to undo all the home side's good early work.

All was not lost for Luton, though, and they responded five minutes later through Gabriel Osho's header to lift the noise levels at Kenilworth Road once again.

However, Arteta's side quietened the atmosphere once again on the stroke of half-time as Gabriel Jesus headed home from close range to restore the visitors' lead.

David Raya was once again in the spotlight early in the second half as his errors allowed Luton to turn the game on its head with goals from Elijah Adebayo (49) and Ross Barkley (57), but Arsenal found a response through Kai Havertz on the hour mark to bring the game level again.

There was plenty of time left for a winner and Arsenal's dominance grew, but roared on by the home fans, Rob Edwards' side looked to be heading for a valuable point but Rice's heroics broke Luton's resistance and kept his side's title challenge firmly on track.

How Rice broke Luton hearts...

Arteta was expecting a physical battle with the Gunners boss going for the size and strength of Jakub Kiwior and Kai Havertz over Oleksandr Zinchenko and Leandro Trossard. A physical contest was exactly what Arsenal got as Luton more than held their own against the league leaders in what was a bright start for the home side.

However, a poor back pass to Thomas Kaminski forced the goalkeeper to kick the ball out of play. Jesus quickly retrieved the ball before taking a swift throw-in to Saka, who got into the area. The England winger, making his 200th Arsenal appearance, raced to the byline and pulled the ball back for Martinelli to sweep home into the bottom left corner, undoing all Luton's good early work.

Roared on by the home fans, Luton responded quickly as the Gunners' lead lasted just four minutes and 40 seconds. Alfie Doughty's out-swinging corner picked out Osho, who ghosted in behind Jesus and the defender thumped a perfect header into the left corner of the net.

The game had burst into life and there was now space for Arsenal to run into as Luton needed Kaminski to deny Jesus, Martinelli and Saka in quick succession.

But he had no chance of stopping Arsenal regaining the lead just before the break as Jesus headed home Ben White's inviting cross from close range for just his second Premier League goal of the season.

The break worked for Luton and they came out with renewed energy, and the hosts got their reward with a helping hand from Raya. It was another moment to forget for the Arsenal goalkeeper as he was beaten in the air by Adebayo as Luton pegged back the Gunners again.

Luton turned the game on its head in the 57th minute when Raya let Barkley's shot through him to hand the hosts the lead for the first time in the game, but three minutes later Havertz was picked out by Jesus before the former Chelsea player provided a smart finish to continue his scoring form and bring the scores level again.

Arsenal started to dominate the game again with wave after wave of attacks, but Luton defended resolutely and even looked a threat on the counter-attack on occasions.

The home fans roared one more time as the fourth official put a minimum of six additional minutes up on the board, willing their side to a point, but Rice popped up 23 seconds into the seventh minute of added time to add to the belief that this could be Arsenal's year.

'A big moment in our season'

Arsenal match-winner Declan Rice:

"Luton are a top side, they can no way be overlooked in this league because of the quality they've got. They made us pay tonight [Tuesday] with set-pieces, us being sloppy at the back but for us to score last minute and keep that momentum building is massive for us in this season.

"You have to take it every day as it comes. I wasn't here last year when they were eight points clear, we have worked a lot as a group with me coming in here now and understanding the team. We have to worry about us, not anyone else and just keep doing what the manager wants, ticking the game off and getting the three points.

"We were knocking on the door and when the ball got to Martin (Odegaard) and I shifted away from my man and went off his back shoulder and I attacked it. Anything can happen, it went in the bottom corner and in those moments, they're the ones you look back on. I'm taking it all in because what a game and the winner."

Arteta: We never gave up

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta:

"So happy, we knew it was going to be a big battle here. We made it harder for ourselves, the way we conceded the goals but the spirit of the team. We never gave up, we are willing to win every game we play, we take risks and we go for it and we got our rewards.

"I really enjoyed it. Especially the end. This is the incredible thing about football, emotions and what you live together with a lot of people. It was a special night. Credit to Luton, the atmosphere they created, how they were coached, how they made it difficult for us, but we found a way to win. The resilience, and the character, and the quality and desire to win that the team showed was great.

"We don't want a draw, we want to win. That emotion that we put in the pitch you can sense it."

When asked if these are the games you need to win to win the title, he added: "Yeah and the previous one and the previous one, we need a lot of points to win the Premier League. It's a really difficult place to come. To win six in a row the way we've done, in different ways, you just have to find a way to win when you haven't done certain things. Especially in your box."

'Arsenal's belief keeps building'

Analysis from Sky Sports' Oliver Yew:

"We were seconds away from talking about Arsenal's Premier League title charge stuttering and hitting a bump in the road.

"Luton had gone toe-to-toe with the league leaders and were moments away from grabbing a famous point on what was becoming a frustrating night for Mikel Arteta's men.

"However, Declan Rice's late show meant that in the blink of an eye, the whole mood and narrative changed as the winning goal, in the seventh minute of added time, sparked wild Arsenal celebrations.

"Rice described it as a 'massive moment'. Arteta savoured a 'special night'.

"Once again it wasn't pretty from the Gunners. It wasn't Arteta's men at their free-flowing best of last season. However, importantly, just like against Manchester United, Manchester City and Brentford earlier in the season, and now Luton, they found a way to get over the line and win.

"Not being at your best but finding a way to get the three points. That's a special characteristic. Many would say a title-winning characteristic.

"Rice's magic moment and the dramatic victory only add to the Gunners' belief that this could actually be the year that Arsenal end their 20-year long wait to bring the tile back to north London."

Edwards: This has to give us belief

Luton manager Rob Edwards:

"We thought let's have a go, that's what our supporters want. That's our identity. That's what got us here.

"We have to play with more quality now and tactically we have to be better. But we were brave tonight, we were on the front foot and aggressive. We made it uncomfortable for them: Arsenal want a game with order.

"We tried to make it chaotic at the right times, but we had to show quality when we had the ball which was not as much. I'm really flat for everyone, the lads are flat in there, but I'm so, so proud of them as well.

"It gets tougher, but these are the games that we wanted. We have given a lot of good memories to our supporters here, who have gone through a lot of bad times, to see Arsenal coming here and going them a game, that will live long in the memory. Seeing our supporters clapping at the end, I know we've done our job.

"We were flat, I told them how proud I am of them. But we have to pick ourselves up and this gives us belief. We have to take that belief."

Opta stats: Rice's late, late show ends Arsenal's run 10-game run without a win at Luton

Declan Rice's winner at 96:23 was Arsenal's latest winning goal on record (since 2006/07) in a Premier League away game. It also ended a 10-game winless run away against Luton in all competitions, earning their first Kenilworth Road victory since 1984.

Bukayo Saka became the fourth youngest player to play 200 games in all competitions for Arsenal (22 years 91 days). His assist for Gabriel Martinelli's opener was his 11th of the season in all comps, more than any other player in Europe's big five leagues.

Arsenal had 52 touches in the opposition box against Luton this evening, their highest tally in a Premier League away game since September 2016 (55 vs Hull City).

Meanwhile, Arsenal conceded three goals in a Premier League match for the first time this season, shipping as many goals tonight as in their previous six away games this term. Meanwhile, Luton scored three goals in a top-flight match for the first time since April 1991 (3-3 vs Chelsea).

What's next?

Luton will play live on Sky Sports this weekend as they take on Man City in the Premier League on Super Sunday, kick-off 2pm. On Saturday December 16, they travel to Bournemouth in the Premier League, kick-off 3pm.

Arsenal are also on Sky Sports this weekend as they travel to Aston Villa on Saturday Night Football, kick-off 5.30pm. They then play their final Champions League group game on Tuesday December 12 away to PSV Eindhoven, kick-off 5.45pm.

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