ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
LONDON • The frustration was too much for Jack Stephens to bear. It had been a pulsating battle, featuring awful defending from both teams and a contender for miss of the season from Danny Welbeck.
Southampton were desperately piling forward in search of a second equaliser when Stephens felt Jack Wilshere nibbling at his ankles and took the bait.
The defender's reaction - a blatant shove on Wilshere, who had performed the role of wind-up merchant to perfection - left referee Andre Marriner with no option but to send him off.
It was indefensible from Stephens, who had earlier let his team down with some shoddy defending for Arsenal's first two goals, courtesy of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scoring his sixth goal since his January arrival from Borussia Dortmund and a deflected strike from Welbeck.
Mohamed Elneny was also sent off for a tamer push on Cedric Soares as the game descended further into chaos in stoppage time, although Arsenal were beyond caring at that point.
This was a free hit for them, but it was of paramount importance for Southampton, who were on the verge of claiming a valuable point in their battle against relegation, after opening the scoring through Shane Long and Charlie Austin coming on in the second half to equalise.
Mark Hughes' team were denied after Welbeck headed the winning goal past Alex McCarthy in the 81st minute to break the Saints' hearts.
In a post-match interview with BBC Sport, Welbeck admitted tempers had boiled over at the death, but he was pleased to take his tally to just seven league goals this term.
"It's a competitive game, Saints are in a difficult position, same as us. We all want the points and, at the end, it got a bit out of hand. It just shows the level of competition in the Premier League," he said.
"I'm happy with the assist and glad to get the goals. I know when I get the opportunities in front of goal, I will put them away - apart from the one I put over!
"I thought I would get another opportunity to get a winner and I kept focused on that."