Arsenal 0, Manchester City 1
Raheem Sterling’s early goal was enough for Manchester City to win at Arsenal and restore their 10 point lead at the top of the Premier League.Embed from Getty Images
Sterling scored only his eighth Premier League header in the second minute header City could not capitalise on other early chances as Arsenal stayed in the game until the end.
City couldn’t get the second goal to make the game safe after an impressive first 20 minutes, and endured sporadic Arsenal attacks in the second half as their own attacking output dropped alarmingly in a game of few clear chances.
City relied on their in-form defenders – with Ruben Dias and John Stones, who was making his 100th Premier League appearance for the Blues – to look after much of the danger with Arsenal in the game until the end but unable to breach the City defence.
Victory meant that City had secured their 8th straight win against the Gunners in the Premier League and extended their winning run to 18 wins in all competitions.
They also equalled their own club record of 11 consecutive away victories in all competitions – a feat set between May and November 2017.
Sterling was happy to be on the scoresheet in a tough contest against an opponent who was previously a trusted lieutenant of City boss Pep Guardiola and knew more than most how to counter City. He said:
“I’m really happy every time I score a headed goal
“Mikel knows our strengths and weaknesses, he made it difficult for us.
“Credit to the team, we’re digging results out when it matters – any team you go to now you could lose the game, we have to keep our focus – on to the next one.”
Guardiola named a very strong side at Arsenal with fit-again players restored to the starting line-up following their midweek win at Everton.
Fernandinho, Kevin De Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan, and Oleksandr Zinchenko started at Arsenal while Kyle Walker, Rodri, Phil Foden, and Gabriel Jesus stepped down to the bench with a trip to Hungary to play Borussia Monchengladbach coming in midweek due to COVID restrictions.
It also meant that City had a formidable bench available with players getting game time rationed as the Gunners notably dropped David Luiz for Pablo Mari and named Nicolas Pepe in their starting lineup.
Raheem Sterling goal proves enough to beat Arsenal as Manchester City keep winning run going
And City were in the lead within 77 seconds when Raheem Sterling headed home from 6 yards relatively unmarked by Rob Holding while meeting a well placed cross from Riyad Mahrez, 30 today, for his 13th goal of the season.
Sterling should have scored before this and almost had another after six minutes when a De Bruyne through ball found him in front of two defenders and Bernd Leno – and he almost wriggled his way past all three before the German got his hands on the ball.
Mahrez saw a goalbound shot deflected wide for a corner off Kieran Tierney in an action packed first eight minutes.
It took time for De Bruyne to get his passing game on track, one pass to put Mahrez through was blocked after 27 minutes, but the Gunners didn’t put City under much pressure and allowed them to hog the possession.
A poor first touch for Gundogan wasted a great chance for a second goal for City as Fernandinho won the ball high up and picked out the German on the edge of the area but the chance was gone.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Nicolas Pepe were offside on Arsenal’s few forays forward while Tierney and Saka were a danger down the Arsenal left flank as Arsenal improved towards the end of the first half.
Pepe hit the side netting after the Gunners made progress down their right flank as they finished the first half well.
Zinchenko blazed over at the start of the second half and set up De Bruyne for a chip which drifted wide – both the Belgian and Gundogan were off the pace on their return from injury layoffs but this fixture was providing useful minutes for their return to form.
De Bruyne finally found a decent through ball to Gundogan but the German was not in a position to stop it from running out of play.
Gundogan saw a late effort tipped away by his international team mate Bernd Leno while De Bruyne volleyed over the bar and Joao Cancelo shot straight at the Arsenal keeper as City began picking at the Gunners defence again.
City made the first change after 63 minutes, with Gabriel Jesus coming on to replace De Bruyne.
The game had slowed to walking pace after a frenetic start, with intermittent action by City who were thwarted when Leno beat Sterling to a ball into the Arsenal area.
Mohamed Elneny fired wide from range after a lazy clearance by Ederson who had to clear a bizarre lofted backless by Cancelo.
Emile Smith Rowe and Alexandre Lacazette were introduced for Martin Odegaard and Pepe as Mikel Arteta sensed that City were vulnerable with 16 minutes to go.
Cancelo curled a late shot wide of the back post with the outside of his right boot after some superb approach play by Jesus.
David Luiz replaced Rob Holding after the Gunners defender was withdrawn under the concussion rule with 7 minutes to go following an accidental collision with Cancelo.
Dani Ceballos became Arsenal’s last proper change when he replaced Mohamed Elneny shortly after that.
And with time running out City saw Jesus run free with retreating defenders in front of him only to sky a last minute chance to put the game to bed.
GOALS – Arsenal 0, Manchester City 1
Arsenal 0, Man City 1: 2. Raheem Sterling evaded the Arsenal defence and was in plenty of space to head Riyad Mahrez’ right wing cross past Bernd Leno from 6 yards out in a great start for City.
MATCH STATS – Arsenal 0, Manchester City 1
Arsenal: Leno, Bellerin, Holding (Luiz 83, Concussion), Mari, Tierney, Elneny (Ceballos 86), Xhaka, Saka, Odegaard (Smith Rowe 74), Pepe (Lacazette 74), Aubameyang
Arsenal subs not used: Gabriel, Willian, Cedric, Ryan, Martinelli
Bookings: Xhaka 53 (foul on Raheem Sterling); Bellerin 87 (foul on Gabriel Jesus)
Man City: Ederson, Cancelo, Stones, Zinchenko, Fernandinho, Gundogan, Bernardo Silva, Mahrez, De Bruyne (Jesus 63), Sterling
Man City subs not used: Steffen, Walker, Aguero, Laporte, Rodri, Torres, Mendy, Foden
Bookings: Bernardo Silva (foul on Bukayo Saka 52); Cancelo 64 (foul on Kieran Tierney)
Goal: Sterling 2
Referee: Jonathan Moss