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15 April 2024

Ruthless Man City go top with statement win at Arsenal

Published
By Reuters

Clinical manchester City knocked Arsenal off their Premier League perch as second-half goals by Jack Grealish and Erling Haaland earned the champions a 3-1 victory in a crunch top-of-the-table clash at The Emirates Stadium on Wednesday.
Arsenal had come from a goal down and looked capable of ending a 10-game losing streak in the league against City but they ultimately came up short as their hopes of a first league title since 2004 suffered a setback.
Mikel Arteta's side, top of the standings since August, hit back strongly after Kevin de Bruyne's 24th-minute opener and were deservedly level through Bukayo Saka's penalty.
But they struggled to maintain the intensity after the break and hardly helped themselves with a succession of errors.
City had a penalty overturned by VAR but kept probing and took the lead when Grealish fired in his third league goal of the season in the 72nd minute.
Haaland then netted his 26th league goal of the campaign to silence the home crowd and put Pep Guardiola's side on 51 points, the same as Arsenal but with a superior goal difference.
Arsenal's first home defeat of the season felt like a pivotal moment in the title race, although with a game in hand they are still very much in contention.
After picking up only one point from their last three games, however, they need to regain re-boot quickly.
"If you give three goals away the way we did that gives them the game. It's a shame because we really had them," Arteta said.
"The margin for error against them is virtually zero. We did a lot of simple things wrong."
Guardiola said his side were "soft" in the first half but praised the way they stepped up.
"They were better than us in the first half but we stepped forward in the second and were still in it and in the end the quality of the players made the difference," he said.
Arteta sprung a surprise by selecting Takehiro Tomiyasu ahead of Ben White at right back while Jorginho came in for the injured Thomas Partey for his first start since arriving from Chelsea in the January transfer window.
WOEFUL PASS
Arteta's decision blew up in his face as Japan international Tomiyasu was pressured into a woeful back pass by Grealish and De Bruyne seized on it before dispatching a silky lobbed finish over a stranded Aaron Ramsdale.
Far from knocking the stuffing out of Arsenal, however, the hosts responded by seizing control in midfield as City looked flustered and bizarrely seemed intent on wasting time.
Tomiyasu volleyed a chance over and Saka had another opportunity but delayed his shot too long.
In the 39th minute, Eddie Nketiah, who earlier headed a chance wide, was played through and flicked a shot goalwards just before being clattered by City's keeper Ederson.
Nathan Ake hooked the ball off the line but referee Anthony Taylor pointed to the spot for Ederson's foul and Saka coolly tucked his penalty past the Brazilian.
City almost regained the lead in first-half stoppage time when Ruben Dias's header was flicked on to the crossbar by Ake.
Surprisingly, Arsenal self-destructed after the break and had one let-off when Gabriel pulled back Haaland to concede a penalty but a VAR check ruled the Norwegian was offside.
Nketiah was inches away from giving Arsenal the lead when he slid in to try to connect with a low cross but City began to dominate as Arsenal faded.
Gabriel was guilty of dithering on the ball on the edge of his penalty area and was robbed by Bernardo Silva before Haaland's pass reached Grealish who fired past Ramsdale.
This time there was no response from Arsenal and Haaland, who was an injury doubt ahead of the game, sealed victory with a typically ruthless finish eight minutes from time.