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Second-half strikes from Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka lifted Arsenal to victory over Brentford as the Gunners moved to within a point of the top fou

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England international Smith Rowe ran at the Brentford defence and curled a measured right-footed shot past David Raya to send his side on their way to a second successive win.

His goal came following a first half in which Arsenal had two penalty appeals turned down.

Bukayo Saka capped a satisfying afternoon for Mikel Arteta’s side when he slotted home, although Brentford felt they should have had a free-kick for a foul on Pontus Jansson in the build-up.

Brentford were superb when they beat Arsenal on the opening night of the season and, while Christian Norgaard struck an injury-time consolation, the Bees’ winless run extended to seven games.

Victory moves Arsenal level on points with fifth-placed West Ham, who drew at Newcastle earlier on Saturday, and within a point of Manchester United in fourth with two games in hand on the Red Devils.

Frustration turns to elation for Gunners

Having not played since beating Wolves on 10 February, Arsenal started brightly as Alexandre Lacazette had a goal disallowed for offside with Martin Odegaard and Saka both firing wide.

The main talking point from the first half, however, centred on Jon Moss after the referee waved away the home side’s appeals following Kristoffer Ajer’s challenge on the French striker in the box.

The Gunners had another shout for a spot-kick when Cedric Soares’ shot struck Yoane Wissa’s arm, but again it was turned down following a VAR check.

But increasing frustration turned to elation three minutes after the restart when Smith Rowe collected Lacazette’s pass and drove at the visiting defence before finishing confidently.

After scoring twice last term, it was a ninth goal of the season – and first of 2022 – for Smith Rowe, who was recalled to Arteta’s line-up to replace the suspended Gabriel Martinelli.

Only Mohamed Salah, Diogo Jota and Raheem Sterling have scored more league goals than Smith Rowe.

Needing to chase the game, Brentford improved slightly, but with top scorer Ivan Toney still injured they were unable to sufficiently trouble the home side’s defence.

And Arsenal punished them again when Thomas Partey found Saka, whose shot flew past Raya and went in off the post.

With seconds remaining, the visitors found the target when Norgaard’s strike stood after a VAR review for offside. But there was not enough time for Thomas Frank’s side to push for the leveller.

Brentford are now without a win since 2 January and sit 14th – six points clear of relegation and having played more games than each of the six teams below them.

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