Arsenal's Kai Havertz, centre, celebrates with teammates after the English...

Arsenal's Kai Havertz, centre, celebrates with teammates after the English Premier League soccer match between Arsenal and Brentford at the Emirates Stadium in London, England, Saturday, March 9, 2024. Credit: AP/Frank Augstein

MANCHESTER, England — Aaron Ramsdale looked up to the sky and was soon being consoled and encouraged by his teammates.

Would a dreadful mistake by Arsenal’s back-up goalkeeper end its long winning run and stop the team climbing to the top of the Premier League?

Kai Havertz ensured it wouldn’t.

With an 86th-minute goal, Havertz secured a 2-1 victory over Brentford on Saturday that lifted Arsenal above Liverpool and Manchester City into first place — for one day at least.

When Havertz’s header struck the net, the most relieved person in Emirates Stadium would have been Ramsdale.

He was only playing because David Raya, Arsenal’s first-choice goalkeeper, was ineligible due to being on loan from Brentford. It was his first league appearance since the reverse fixture hosted by Brentford in November — when Havertz also scored a late winning goal — so perhaps rustiness was to blame for Ramsdale dallying on the ball following a back pass and his clearance getting charged down by Yoane Wissa and ricocheting into the net.

It made the score 1-1 deep into first-half stoppage time and Ramsdale didn’t know where to look. As he walked off the field at halftime, some Arsenal substitutes and members of its backroom staff fist-pumped with Ramsdale and patted him on the back.

Manchester United's Alejandro Garnacho, right is fouled by Everton's Ben...

Manchester United's Alejandro Garnacho, right is fouled by Everton's Ben Godfrey who gave a way a penalty to Manchester United during an English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Everton at the Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, England, Saturday, March 9, 2024. Credit: AP/Dave Thompson

The goalkeeper responded with two brilliant saves in the second half, the first a spectacular dive backward to claw away Ivan Toney’s outrageous long-range attempt. Still, Ramsdale needed a teammate to score at the other to spare his blushes.

Havertz obliged, scoring for the fourth straight game — though he might have been fortunate to still be on the field after escaping a yellow card for what seemed a clear dive.

The Germany forward was a surprise signing by Arsenal in the offseason, joining for a reported $82 million despite an unconvincing spell at Chelsea. He is beginning to prove his worth, however, whether playing up front or as an attacking midfielder.

Arsenal won for the eighth straight game and is a point clear of Liverpool and two ahead of City. They meet at Anfield on Sunday.

Manchester United's Marcus Rashford, 2nd from right, scores his side's...

Manchester United's Marcus Rashford, 2nd from right, scores his side's second goal with a penalty kick during an English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Everton at the Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, England, Saturday, March 9, 2024. Credit: AP/Dave Thompson

GARNACHO HURTS EVERTON

Alejandro Garnacho hurt Everton again, even if it was in a far less spectacular way.

Three-and-a-half months after that outrageous overhead kick at Goodison Park, the gifted Manchester United teenager with magic in his feet won two penalties to inspire his team to a 2-0 victory over Everton at Old Trafford.

Before Saturday, no United player had ever earned a pair of spot kicks in the same Premier League game.

Garnacho changed that, firstly flicking the ball to the side of James Tarkowski and falling under the defender's tackle before Bruno Fernandes converted the penalty in the 12th. Then Garnacho's surging drive into the area ended with him upended by Ben Godfrey, with Marcus Rashford taking the penalty duties from Fernandes and finding the corner in the 36th.

It's this directness and trickery that has helped the Argentine winger establish himself as a regular in one of the top teams in England at the age of 19. United will need him to keep it up if Erik ten Hag's side is to squeeze into the Champions League qualification places by the end of the season.

United stayed in sixth place but at least trimmed the gap to fourth-place Aston Villa to eight points and fifth-place Tottenham to three points. There's a chance five Premier League teams — rather than four — will enter the Champions League for next season, though that depends on the overall performance of English clubs in European competitions in the remainder of this campaign.

Villa and Spurs meet on Sunday.

NOT-SO-BLUNT BLADES

Sheffield United has been spoken about as potentially the worst team to ever play in the Premier League after conceding at least five goals in each of its last three home games on its likely return to the Championship.

On the road, however, the Blades aren't so blunt.

A 2-2 draw at Bournemouth salvaged some pride after their 6-0 thrashing by Arsenal on Monday but wins are needed for survival. Sheffield United are still 10 points from safety.

That result came after a 3-1 victory at Luton a month ago and a battling 1-0 loss at Wolverhampton two weeks ago. It's at home where the problems lie for Chris Wilder's team.

REFEREEING FIRST

Sunny Singh Gill became the first referee of Indian descent to take charge of a Premier League game in Crystal Palace's 1-1 home draw with Luton.

The 39-year-old Singh Gill was seen signing autographs at Selhurst Park at the request of fans to mark the occasion.

Jean-Philippe Mateta put Palace ahead with a deft flicked finish in the 11th minute, only for Luton to equalize in the sixth minute of second-half stoppage time through Cauley Woodrow.

Luton stayed in third-to-last place but is only three points from safety.

Wolverhampton beat Fulham 2-1 in the day's other game.

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Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80

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