By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) - Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang marked his return to Arsenal's starting lineup with his first ever Premier League hat-trick in their 4-2 home victory over Leeds United on Sunday.
The Gabon forward, who had not started any of his side's last five games for personal reasons, fired Arsenal ahead in the 13th minute then doubled the lead with a penalty before Hector Bellerin made it 3-0 on the stroke of halftime.
Aubameyang completed his treble with a header two minutes into the second half but Leeds hit back.
Pascal Struijk's header in the 58th minute revived the visitors and when Helder Costa struck again with around 20 minutes remaining there were some wobbles in the home ranks.
Aubameyang was only denied a fourth by the woodwork, though, as Arsenal got back to winning ways after two straight league defeats.
They moved back above Leeds into 10th spot with 34 points from 24 games, leaving Leeds 11th on 32 with a game in hand.
"I'm happy and my kids are happy because they are going to get (the match ball)," Aubameyang said.
"We knew it would be a hard game. Leeds never gave up but we showed good game management at the end."
Club skipper Aubameyang, whose mother has been ill, put Arsenal ahead when he cut in from the left and deceived Leeds keeper Illan Meslier with a shot that crept in at the near post.
Aubameyang had another goal-bound effort blocked soon after and Arsenal were awarded a penalty when Bukayo Saka drove into the area and fell under a challenge by Liam Cooper.
Despite initially pointing to the spot, referee Stuart Attwell viewed the incident again on a pitchside VAR monitor and changed his mind.
There was no argument, however, 10 minutes later when Meslier was caught in two minds and tripped Saka as he tried to make amends for a poor touch.
Aubameyang struck home the penalty to double Arsenal's lead and Meslier should have done better when he allowed Bellerin's close-range shot to squeeze past him in the 45th minute.
Arsenal were running riot when Aubameyang headed in Emile Smith-Rowe's cross shot in the 47th minute but Marcelo Bielsa's Leeds are nothing if not unpredictable and suddenly woke up.
First Struijk's thumping header and then Costa's neat finish from a ball in by Tyler Roberts gave them hope of pulling off an unlikely rescue mission.
There were a few nervous moments in the Arsenal defence but Aubameyang almost capped a superb display with a clipped first-time shot that cannoned off the frame of the goal.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar and Ken Ferris)