Luton's scoring run is ended as they are unable to prevent Arsenal going top

Premier League: Arsenal 2 Luton Town 0
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Luton's winless Premier League run stretched to 10 games as they were unable to halt title-chasing Arsenal going back to the top of the table with what was a comfortable 2-0 victory for the Gunners at the Emirates this evening.

Although Town left empty-handed, having been breached twice in the first period and with a threadbare side playing their second game in the space of a few days, to their credit, Rob Edwards' team were able to produce a second half display they could be hugely proud of, keeping their free-scoring hosts at arm's length and going on to have more of the ball themselves, just unable to find the goal their terrific away fans deserved to witness.

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The Town chief made three changes from that first trip to north London at the weekend, Alfie Doughty recovering to make the starting XI having been forced off against Tottenham, with Tahith Chong on the bench, Reece Burke missing out completely. Daiki Hashioka and Fred Onyedinma came in, the latter making his first start for Luton since the 0-0 draw with Hull City in the Championship on May 8, 2023, while teenagers Joe Johnson, Zack Nelson and Axel Piesold were all on the bench, joined by 16-year-old Christian Chigozie, who is taking his GCSEs this summer.

Daiki Hashioka heads clear against Arsenal - pic: Liam SmithDaiki Hashioka heads clear against Arsenal - pic: Liam Smith
Daiki Hashioka heads clear against Arsenal - pic: Liam Smith

With the pattern of the game quite clear from the opening stages, Arsenal dominating possession, Luton happy to drop deep and try to contain their hosts, they did so well enough in the opening 10 minutes, Oleksander Zinchenko's blast from outside the box that cannoned off Doughty the closest they came. Having been on the back foot, Luton did start to venture forward with 15 gone, Ross Barkley doing superbly to beat three men with one pass and free Jordan Clark, his cross unable to find a team-mate, while another terrific raking crossfield pass by Barkley saw Doughty deliver, only for it to hit Clark and fly behind.

Town then got themselves into trouble on 24 minutes and did exactly what they hadn't wanted to do, gift the Gunners the opening goal. Having won a pressure-relieving free kick, the ball ended up back inside Luton territory as once Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu had his pocket picked by Emile Smith Rowe, the Hatters were in trouble.

The ruthless hosts took full advantage too, Kai Havertz able to find the completely unmarked Martin Odegaard who took his effort first time, arrowing beyond Thomas Kaminski and into the bottom corner. Luton responded well though, Andros Townsend getting away twice on the right hand side, his first cross well defended at the back post, the second bouncing up awkwardly only to be well claimed by keeper David Raya.

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The wideman was behind another decent moment for Luton with half an hour gone, as this time he went to the byline on his right foot, standing up a cross that saw Clark fail to get the required direction on his downward header. With Hashioka down injured after a lunging challenge, Arsenal played on, the ball eventually worked to Emile Smith Rowe whose shot was parried by Kaminski, Mengi again reacting quickly to make a crucial block on the rebound.

With both Mengi and Hashioka needing treatment in the aftermath, Edwards had his heart in his mouth hoping he surely couldn't suffer even more misfortune with injuries, as thankfully this time, they both managed to carry on unscathed. The Gunners continued to push for a second, Ben White doing wonderfully to turn as Havertz was spotted on the left, his low shot saved by Kaminski, Mengi there once more to clear the danger.

From the short corner, Luton almost conceded a needless second, a short set-piece worked into the box and Doughty’s miscontrol saw him slide in and divert the ball narrowly wide via the boot of Thomas Partey. Unfortunately, Mikel Arteta’s side did break through on the stroke of half time, Smith Rowe not tracked by Barkley as he was allowed to get to the by-line, his cross bundled home by Reiss Nelson, although it looked like Hashioka got the final touch, the official verdict being an own goal by the Japanese international.

Town did manage a shot target with the last kick of the first half, Barkley's effort from 25 yards bouncing up comfortably for Raya. With their eyes on damage limitation for the second half, and preventing any further injuries for the bigger game with AFC Bournemouth on Saturday, the Hatters managed to do that, and come away with their heads held that bit higher in the end.

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Some rare good news on the injury front saw Chong replace Mpanzu early on, while Luton, as they always do under Edwards, showed they weren't about to take the defeat lying down, looking to press whenever they could, Clark winning a free kick that Gunners were able to defend. Chong quickly resumed his telepathic link with Doughty that could be a real key factor in their attempts to stay up, the wingback's cross just too high for Carlton Morris, while he then found Onyedinma on the right who was unable to beat the first man.

The wingback did superbly to win a corner with little support soon afterwards, before being replaced by Cauley Woodrow, which saw Kabore shifted out to the right, setting off on three lung busting sprints, although Town were just unable to pick him out. With Arteta's team happy to preserve what they had and looking to conserve energy for a congested fixture list ahead, the game was played far more in the Gunners half than at any stage before the interval, all the hosts mustering was a Takehiro Tomiyasu curler that flashed wide.

Hashioka of all people almost pulled one back for Town, crashing a late attempt into the body of Gabriel as Doughty continued to cause problems on the left, while another home sub, Eddie Nketiah forcing Kaminski to prevent Arsenal adding a third low down. With Arteta bringing on £100m signing Declan Rice, Luton rung their own changes, Cauley Woodrow and Luke Berry entering the fray, the midfielder almost bagging a late consolation, anticipating Kabore's cross to head powerfully over.

The Hatters' hopes of extending their 18-game scoring run in the top flight was finally ended though when Barkley's header from Hashioka's cross was over the top, as Town remained three points adrift of safety with seven games to go now.

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Gunners: David Raya, William Saliba, Ben White, Thomas Partey (Declan Rice 67), Gabriel Magalhaes, Martin Odegaard (C), Emile Smith Rowe (Jorginho 84), Leandro Trossard, Reiss Nelson (Gabriel Martinelli 75), Kai Havertz (Eddie Nketiah 66), Oleksander Zinchenko (Takehiro Tomiyasu 74). Subs not used: Aaron Ramsdale, Gabriel Jesus, Jakub Kiwior, Fabio Vieira.

Hatters: Thomas Kaminski, Andros Townsend (Luke Berry 81), Teden Mengi, Daiki Hashioka, Issa Kabore, Alfie Doughty, Ross Barkley, Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu (Tahith Chong 53), Jordan Clark, Fred Onyedinma (Cauley Woodrow 75), Carlton Morris (C). Subs not used: James Shea, Tim Krul, Zack Nelson, Joe Johnson, Christian Chigozie, Axel Piesold. Referee: Craig Pawson. Booked: Havertz, Onyedinma. Attendance: 60,262.

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