Soccer-Blades closer to drop as Arsenal keep European hopes

Soccer Football - Premier League - Sheffield United v Arsenal - Bramall Lane, Sheffield, Britain - April 11, 2021 Arsenal's Alexandre Lacazette celebrates scoring their first goal Pool via REUTERS/Laurence Griffiths

SHEFFIELD (Reuters) -Arsenal kept alive their hopes of playing in European competition next season with a 3-0 win at Sheffield United who were left staring at relegation after Alexandre Lacazette scored twice and Gabriel Martinelli added another on Sunday.

The result lifted Arsenal to ninth place on 45 points from 31 games while Sheffield United stayed rooted to the bottom on 14 points, 18 adrift of safety with seven games remaining.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta was pleased with his team's performance and notably with keeping a clean sheet ahead of Thursday's Europa League quarter-final return leg at Slavia Prague after a 1-1 draw at the Emirates Stadium.

"I am really happy with the way we played, we scored some really nice goals and controlled the game the way we wanted," he told BT Sport.

"This is ideal preparation for Thursday. It has been a long run without a clean sheet. We played at a high level. From the start I felt the boys were at it, we were efficient."

Lacazette added: "It was important we won and it was a great day for us. I missed an easy chance on Thursday (in the first leg against Slavia) and so I wanted to score.

"The confidence was lacking a little bit. We know we have the quality but sometimes we miss a little bit at both ends of the pitch."

Arsenal missed several chances before Lacazette started and finished a flowing move in the 33rd minute as he side-footed a cheeky Dani Ceballos assist past home goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale.

The French striker drilled a shot wide from 16 metres before Martinelli made it 2-0 in the 71st minute when he tapped in a close-range rebound as Ramsdale parried a Nicolas Pepe shot straight into his path.

It was the Brazilian's first Premier League goal since January 2020 when he netted against Chelsea and it came as fitting reward for a fine all-round performance.

Lacazette sealed Arsenal's win in the 85th minute with his 50th Premier League goal as he took a defence-splitting Thomas Partey pass in his stride and steered it past Ramsdale from the edge of the penalty area.

Sheffield United's interim manager Paul Heckingbottom put on a brave face in the wake of his team's forlorn hopes of avoiding the drop.

"We can't feel sorry for ourselves," he said. "Seven more games and we won't be given anything. The players know they are playing for everything.

"These are the moments that make you hungry as a football manager and I will make sure the players feel that way."

(Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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