City crush Arsenal in potential title decider

You’d be hard pressed to find a bigger game than this on this season’s football calendar – with some even going as far as to say that this game could be more influential than the Champions League Final. Manchester City hosted Arsenal, as Mikel Arteta returned to his old hunting ground in a bid to extend the Gunners’ lead at the top of the table. Put simply, it was a must win for both sides – though the pressure remained firmly on the North London side.

MCI: Ederson; Akanji, Dias, Walker; Rodri, Stones; Grealish, Gündoğan, De Bruyne, B. Silva; Haaland

ARS: Ramsdale; Zinchenko, Gabriel, Holding, White; Xhaka, Partey, Ødegaard; Martinelli, Jesus, Saka

As you’d expect, there was drama from the off – Kevin De Bruyne looked to pounce on a poor clearance from Aaron Ramsdale, though Thomas Partey appeared to get his body in the way. City’s Belgian midfielder clipped his ankle, and Michael Oliver awarded the Gunners a free kick.

Martinelli skipped down the right flank, playing in Bukayo Saka who then looked to tee up Gabriel Jesus in the centre of the box – though the Brazilian was nowhere to be found, and the ball was cleared with ease by Kyle Walker.

Kevin De Bruyne fired the hosts into the lead in the seventh minute, driving an effort from range into the bottom-right corner. Haaland received the ball on the halfway line before turning to get the better of Rob Holding, and the Norwegian then released De Bruyne – who opened the scoring after a mazy run towards goal.

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The Belgian looked to return the favour soon after as he tried to play in Haaland, though the striker seemed to be on a different wavelength and the chance went begging. It had certainly been a dominant start by Manchester City, with Guardiola looking to pick up all three points over his former apprentice.

De Bruyne sought to bag his second with 25 minutes played after being sent through once more by Erling Haaland. However, a great block kept the scoreline at 1-0 for the time being.

Haaland was sure to score minutes later, weaving his way through a huddle of players inside the penalty area before trying to pick out the bottom corner – but a deflection from Ben White ensured Arsenal didn’t fall any further behind in this fixture. The Norwegian striker unleashed a shot from a very tight angle soon after, though that was parried away convincingly by Aaron Ramsdale.

Thomas Partey will be rueing the absence of his shooting boots, as the Ghanaian’s strike from the edge of the penalty area whistled just wide of the post – and it was a huge squandered chance for the Gunners to bring themselves level.

Haaland looked to double City’s advantage almost immediately after, receiving the ball from Jack Grealish before surging towards goal. The Norwegian’s effort was placed wide of the upright, striking Aaron Ramsdale’s water bottle instead of finding the bottom corner.

John Stones thought he’d added to City’s lead on the stroke of half time, rising highest at the back post to divert a free-kick into the back of the net. Ramsdale couldn’t quite reach it, and his relief was visible when the linesman’s flag was raised for offside. However, a lengthy VAR appeal overturned the on-field decision as Ben White’s foot kept the City midfielder onside.

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VAR was called into action once more before the interval, as Ben White launched Ruben Dias into the corner flag. The Portuguese international then lashed out, swinging a leg at the Arsenal defender – and he was duly shown a yellow card.

Ten minutes into the second half, Kevin De Bruyne doubled his goal tally to send Manchester City 3-0 up. Erling Haaland was the provider once more, and the Belgian managed to get past Rob Holding with ease before burying an effort under the outstretched arms of Aaron Ramsdale.

As they found themselves in a rather comfortable position, City seemed to ease the pressure for the final thirty minutes or so. Arsenal had an opportunity to reduce the deficit with just over ten minutes left to play, but Bukayo Saka curled his free-kick over the crossbar.

Rob Holding did manage to claw one back for the Gunners, taking the ball from the feet of Leandro Trossard before firing it past the outstretched arms of Ederson. With just three minutes left to play, it was likely to be a mere consolation – though we’ve seen Arsenal come back to claim a point in spectacular fashion recently!

That wouldn’t happen again though – as Erling Haaland was the next player on the scoresheet. The Norwegian finally found the back of the net in the dying minutes, after an unlucky deflection saw the striker played through on goal. It brings him to a staggering 49 goals across all competitions this season!

As the final whistle rang out around the Etihad, it was the hosts that claimed all three points. They remain second, but trail Arsenal by just two points – with two games in hand over the Gunners. You wouldn’t have thought that this was earmarked as a potential title decider ahead of kickoff. City were utterly dominant throughout, though Mikel Arteta’s substitutes had the desired impact and helped the visitors end strongly.