As soon as the ball hit the back of the net, Arsenal goalkeeper David Raya sprinted the length of the field to celebrate the last-gasp winner with his jubilant teammates.
No player will have been more relieved than Raya to see Declan Rice’s glancing header creep into the corner and seal a chaotic 4-3 victory over Luton in the Premier League on Tuesday.
While Rice is proving value for money after his club-record signing in July, Raya — another offseason recruit — remains an issue for Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta as the team bids to win the league title after last season’s near miss.
Arsenal moved five points clear with its fourth straight victory in the league, overcoming errors from Raya that led to two goals for Luton by netting in the seventh minute of stoppage time through Rice at Kenilworth Road.
“The spirit of the team — how we fought, showed our quality in the right moments and never gave up,” Arteta said. “We went for it and got our rewards.”
Arteta chose not to talk about the mistakes by Raya, which looked like they’d be costly for Arsenal.
The team was leading 2-1 in the 49th minute when the Spanish goalkeeper was beaten in the air at a corner by Elijah Adebayo, who powered in a header for an equalizer.
Eight minutes later, Raya allowed a shot by Ross Barkley to go under his body as he dived to his left.
Luton, a promoted team likely to be battling relegation this season, was suddenly 3-2 ahead and Raya didn’t know where to look.
Kai Havertz scored an equalizer almost immediately, though, and incessant pressure in the final minutes ended with Martin Odegaard whipping in a cross and Rice rising to flick a header into the bottom corner, sparking wild celebrations in the away end and jeers from Luton fans. The goal came after the six allotted minutes of stoppage time had expired.
Arsenal has won nine points from goals in the last five minutes of games this season, a good sign for a club looking to win the league for the first time since 2004.
Arteta now has to decide what to do with Raya, who has taken the place of Aaron Ramsdale since arriving from Brentford. He is better with his feet than Ramsdale but has produced errors in other parts of his game, like being caught completely out of position to let in a cross from Mykhailo Mudryk in a match at Chelsea in October.
Gabriel Martinelli and Gabriel Jesus scored first-half goals for Arsenal, either side of Gabriel Osho’s equalizer for Luton.
Second-place Liverpool can move back to two points behind by beating last-place Sheffield United on Wednesday. Manchester City, a further point back in third, visits Aston Villa.
FREE-SCORING SOUTH KOREANS
South Korea boasts two of the leading scorers in the Premier League this season.
While Tottenham’s Son Heung-min isn’t too much of a surprise, Wolverhampton’s Hwang Hee-chan certainly is.
Hwang made it eight goals in 15 games in this campaign with the first-half winner in Wolves’ 1-0 victory over Burnley at Molineux. That’s as many league goals as he managed in his first two full seasons for Wolves after joining from Leipzig in August 2021, initially on loan.
Hwang is one goal behind Son, with only Mohamed Salah (10) and Erling Haaland (14) ahead of them.