Danny Welbeck savoured the moment after crowning his comeback from a 10-month injury lay-off with a 95th-minute winner for Arsenal against Premier League leaders Leicester City on Sunday.
Sidelined since April last year with a serious knee injury, the 25-year-old England striker came off the bench to head in Mesut Ozil’s last-ditch free-kick and give the hosts a dramatic 2-1 win.
It was the former Manchester United player’s first league goal since December 2014 and it reignited Arsenal’s title challenge, lifting them to within two points of Leicester with 12 games remaining.
“Dying seconds, we kept pushing, had chance after chance,” Welbeck told Sky Sports.
“I missed the first opportunity and tried to make amends. It is important and the most important thing is to get the win.
“It has been a rollercoaster for me, a difficult moment, and my family and friends know what I have been through.”
Welbeck’s fellow substitute Theo Walcott, whose 70th-minute goal cancelled out Jamie Vardy’s penalty opener for Leicester, paid tribute to his England colleague.
“This man hasn’t played for nine months and to get into the mix like that, special players come into big games,” he said. “That could be massive.”
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger revealed that Welbeck’s team-mates had chanted his name as he returned to the changing room after the match.
– Ranieri ‘very angry’ –
“In the last two days he was convincing in training,” Wenger said.
“I planned to play him next week, but in the last two training sessions he was very sharp. Danny Welbeck is a great player.
“Everyone is extremely happy for him because he’s been out for 10 months. That’s an eternity for a player.”
Wenger conceded that defeat could have been fatal for his team’s hopes of ending their 12-year wait for the English title.
“It was a pivotal moment today because the mathematics meant it could be eight points or it could be two points. That is a great change,” he said.
“There’s a long way to go. We play a lot of big teams. But we had a bad spell where we couldn’t win for four games and have now won two on the bounce. We have come out of that bad spell and still have a good chance.”
Leicester were leading via Vardy’s penalty — his 19th goal of the campaign — when Danny Simpson was sent off in the 54th minute after being booked twice in five minutes for tripping Alexis Sanchez and tugging back Olivier Giroud.
Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri said that he was “very angry” with referee Martin Atkinson for dismissing Simpson.
“I don’t know if in a normal match that our two yellow cards was a sending off,” he said.
“They were normal fouls, but not yellow cards. I think the referee was too severe to us for the sending-off. Eleven v 11, I’m sure we win the match. The match was full of fouls, so why send off a player? Come on.” – Agence France-Presse