Football: Arsenal are inspired by bold touch of Merson: Leeds stumble again at Highbury - Mobile Blackburn look impressive - Blades apply a cutting edge - Oldham are pulled back

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Arsenal. . . . 2

Leeds United. .1

A THIRD successive victory provided irrefutable proof that Arsenal's house is back in order after George Graham had threatened to send them all to Coventry. With this latest win they also demonstrated a determination not to allow those other mighty Reds, Manchester United and Liverpool, to assemble too great a lead too early into the campaign.

It was Paul Merson who had paid the heaviest price for their opening- day Highbury horror. Forgiven, he was restored after missing two games and last night it was his goal which ultimately proved the difference between two muscular, exuberant sides.

Merson also set up Arsenal's first, which arrived after only 58 seconds and, although the remainder of his first 45-minute display was spoiled by a tendency to put passes astray, he is crucial to a team that, Ian Wright aside, is not over-blessed in the goalscoring department.

Apart from Merson's return the Arsenal manager gave Ian Selley his first appearance of the season and was forced to adjust to take account of Tony Adams, absent through an ankle injury, and John Jensen, who was away on international duty.

Eddie McGoldrick went to right- back with Martin Keown moving inside but the focus immediately switched to Arsenal's attack, where Selley released Merson into space with a searching through-pass.

Merson's cross was aimed perfectly into the feet of Kevin Campbell but what should have been a routine goalscoring chance initially went astray as the striker, who exemplifies their shortcomings in front of goal, miscued horribly. Maybe it was too early for his sights to be truly set but nevertheless Campbell was still hugely relieved to find the ball spin back before cannoning off Jon Newsome's knees into the net.

Leeds had been riddled by four Norwich goals on Saturday and at that moment there was a 'here we go again' look on Yorkshire faces. The gift should have been the start to set Arsenal off in style but they sat back and allowed Leeds, swallowing hard on their disappointment, to dominate. Their midfield, settled and solid, played keep-ball without really disturbing the home defence, and for long periods there was little to get excited about.

Arsenal hoped that if they could hold out and stay patient a second goal would come, and in the 58th minute they at last gave the patrons of the impressive new North Bank something to cheer.

Wright, who just before half-time had received his second caution of the season with a late tackle on Gary Kelly was, for once, provider, lifting the ball over the top where both Campbell and Merson were in chase. Kelly's attempt to reach John Lukic fell short and Merson slipped the ball home, although Howard Wilkinson, the Leeds manager, complained that his man had been held back.

Bearing in mind Leeds' dismal away form - still to win in the League in 18 months - it was a comfortable cushion, and what was to prove only Arsenal's third home success in 15 games spanning the summer recess was endangered only by Gordon Strachan's drive from 20 yards, after Brian Deane nodded down into his path with 20 minutes remaining. The target man then set himself for an equaliser when Gary Speed's shot deflected to him - but he could only put his header into the arms of David Seaman.

Arsenal (4-4-2): Seaman; McGoldrick, Keown, Linighan, Winterburn; Parlour, Davis (Hillier, h- t), Selley, Merson; Campbell, Wright. Substitutes not used: Miller (gk), Limpar.

Leeds United (4-4-2): Lukic; Kelly, Newsome, Fairclough, Dorigo; Strachan, Batty, McAllister, Speed; Whelan (Rod Wallace, h-t), Deane. Substitutes not used: Beeney (gk), Wetherall.

Referee: K Hackett (Sheffield).

Paul Gascoigne missed a penalty but headed the final goal in Lazio's 3-0 victory over Internazionale in a pre-season friendly in Rome yesterday.

Gorman retains trust, page 37

(Photograph omitted)

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