MAN CITY 1, ARSENAL 0
For all Manchester City’s attacking riches, it was defender Nathan Ake who was their Emirates FA Cup matchwinner against Arsenal.
On a night when Erling Haaland failed to deliver, Dutch international Ake came up with the all-important goal midway through the second half of their fourth-round tie at the Etihad.
Amazingly it gave City their first FA Cup win against the Gunners since 1904 when they were known as Woolwich Arsenal.
But this clash of the Premier League’s top two saw second-placed City win through to the last 16.
While City played an almost full-strength side, it was an altogether different story for Arsenal who made six changes as it was clear where their priorities lie. They are five points clear with a game in hand.
Matchwinner and player-of-the-match Ake said: “In the second half we were a little better and played more our game. It was tough, they pressured us high. We had to use Erling (Haaland) more than usual.”Embed from Getty Images
On his goal, he added: “It was the first one I ever scored with my right foot so pleased with that.
“Especially after a tough period, two good games before this one. It’s good to carry on this one. It gives us confidence for the next game.
“There’s still more to come. They are a very tough team. We stayed strong and didn’t concede.”
There was also praise from City manager Pep Guardiola who declared: “What a season he is playing. He controlled one of the toughest opponents in the Premier League because (Bukayo)Saka is in an incredible moment.
“He is really good in the duels in the box, defending the far post and set pieces is an extra bonus. He is an exceptional guy. There was a period where he didn’t play and he never complained once.”
Reflecting on the game, Guardiola said: “We knew it would be difficult but managed to beat them and get into the next round.
“It was difficult because of the quality of the opponent, but in the second half we were better, but it was a tight game.”
Guardiola, who was surprised by Arsenal going man to man, added: “In general we did everything against one exceptional team.”
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta was left to reflect on what might have been, saying: “We had three or four big openings and have to be composed to put them in the net.
“At the moment, my feeling is one of disappointment. We are out but could have taken more from the game.
“When I look back tomorrow, I will know we competed against them, but lacked something. You have to take your chances but unfortunately we didn’t.”
City made two changes to the side that beat Wolves 3-0 in the Premier League last weekend as Stefan Ortega replaced Ederson in goal and Nathan Ake returned in place of Aymeric Laporte.
There were six from the Arsenal side that recorded a 3-2 home win over Manchester United in the Premier League last weekend.
Matt Turner replaced Aaron Ramsdale in goal while Takehiro Tomiyasu, Rob Holding and Kieran Tierney came into the back four at the expense of Ben White, William Saliba and Oleksandr Zinchenko.
Fabio Vieira took over from Martin Odegaard and new signing Leandro Trossard made his first start for the Gunners in place of Gabriel Martinelli.
Arsenal carved out the first decent chance in the fifth minute when Trossard cut the ball back to Takehiro Tomiyasu who brought a fine saved from Ortega.
Trossard then bought a great save from Ortega as the former Brighton player was impressing in his first full appearance.
Haaland had an early chance, an audacious overhead kick from 25 yards which was headed clear by Tierney while Kevin De Bruyne bent an effort just wide of the upright.
The lively Trossard provided a cross which Eddie Nketiah fired narrowly wide at the near post.
City were forced to make a change in first half stoppage time when John Stones went down clutching his hamstring as he was replaced by Aymeric Laporte.
As the stalemate continued, Guardiola made two further changes just short of the hour as Riyad Mahrez and Rico Lewis made was for Julian Alvarez and Kyle Walker.
The breakthrough came midway through the second period.
Alvarez made an immediate impact as his drive from distance struck the upright. Jack Grealish recycled the ball cutting it back to Ake who steered a low shot into the far corner for his second goal of the season.
City’s fourth change with 15 minutes left saw De Bruyne replaced by Bernardo Silva.
In the latter stages, City’s game management was excellent as they retained possession to prevent Arsenal from ever looking like getting a leveller.