Soccer-Jesus at the double as Arsenal steam on towards title

Soccer Football - Premier League - Arsenal v Leeds United - Emirates Stadium, London, Britain - April 1, 2023 Arsenal's Emile Smith Rowe celebrates with Bukayo Saka and Ben White as Leeds United's Liam Cooper reacts after the match Action Images via Reuters/Matthew Childs

LONDON (Reuters) - Gabriel Jesus scored his first goals for six months as Arsenal maintained control of the Premier League title race with a 4-1 defeat of relegation-threatened Leeds United on Saturday.

Jesus, starting a league game for the first time since returning from a knee injury last month, converted a 35th-minute penalty after being clipped in the box by Luke Ayling.

Ben White doubled Arsenal's advantage from Gabriel Martinelli's pass before Brazilian Jesus, signed from Manchester City last summer, struck again from close range in the 55th minute from Leandro Trossard's assist.

Leeds had troubled Arsenal in the opening period but once Jesus put the hosts ahead it was relatively plain sailing as they restored their eight-point lead over champions Man City.

The visitors did raise a few jitters in the home crowd when Rasmus Kristensen's deflected shot gave Leeds a 76th-minute lifeline but Granit Xhaka's header secured another three points in Arsenal's quest for a first title since 2004.

City had earlier ramped up the pressure on Mikel Arteta's side with a 4-1 thrashing of Liverpool.

Arsenal's seventh successive league win moved them to 72 points from 29 games with City, who still have to play the London club at home, on 64 having played one game less.

Leeds remain in a precarious position in 16th place with 26 points, a point above 18th-placed Leicester City.

Jesus began the season in stunning fashion for Arsenal with a flurry of goals and assists and his return to the first team after being injured at the World Cup is perfectly timed.

"Everyone is playing so well. It is easy to come back. The most important thing is that everyone that has come in has played good," Jesus said.

His persistence and trickery earned Arsenal a nerve-settling penalty on Saturday as he jinked into the box and Ayling, rather unluckily, conceded the spot kick as Jesus tumbled.

It was a relief for the home side when he calmly struck the ball into the net past Illan Meslier.

Shortly before that Leeds had twice been denied by Arsenal keeper Aaron Ramsdale, first when Crysencio Summerville fired in a low shot after a slick move and then when Summerville set up Jack Harrison for a powerful shot at goal.

Arsenal started the second half much sharper though and Martinelli did well down the left before playing the ball across the area for White to finish at the far post.

When Jesus made it 3-0 the atmosphere inside the Emirates Stadium was joyous and although Leeds briefly threatened a comeback the fans left for home in full voice.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar and Toby Davis)

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