Arsenal 1-2 Man City: City leave it very late to deny unlucky Gunners

Arsenal 1-2 Man City: City leave it very late to deny unlucky Gunners

A goal two minutes into added time by Rodri decided a very tense and excellent encounter that kicked off the 2022 EPL fixtures. Two controversial incidents meant that despite a good Arsenal performance, runaway EPL leaders, Manchester City, staged a second-half fightback to eke out a 2-1 win over Arsenal.

Two teams in very good form – Arsenal and Manchester City – kicked off the Premier League on New Year Day at the Emirates. Mikel Arteta was missing from the sidelines because of Covid-19 and the Arsenal team that ran out was very different from the one that lost 5-0 at the Etihad Stadium in August.

City started in dominant fashion-hogging ball possession with Arsenal in a solid defensive shape that denied City forwards their usual running lanes into the opponent’s box. Arsenal created the first clear scoring chance and it ended in a VAR review. Martin Odegaard seemed to have been fouled by Ederson but video replays showed Ederson got a bit of Odegaard before getting on the ball.

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It was another VAR controversy for the 2021/22 EPL season.

Ruben Dias should have given City the lead in the 13th minute but he could not steer a free header on target. Kevin de Bruyne shot wide after good work from Gabriel Jesus in the 18th minute. But it was the Belgian who lost the ball for Arsenal’s opening goal. Ben White won the ball off De Bruyne just inside the Arsenal half and in five passes, Bukayo Saka swept in the ball past Ederson to give the Gunners the lead.

The Gunners had come into the match on a five-match winning run in which they had scored 19 goals with Saka and Gabriel Martinelli in good scoring form. The two youngsters were the main offensive instigators for the home side.

Martinelli had two great chances to increase the lead; first in the 38th minute when his curling effort went just over the crossbar and in the 42nd minute when he ran all the way from the halfway line and poked his effort wide.

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The second half was more of the same as City monopolized ball possession but did not threaten Aaron Ramsdale’s goal. The dynamic of the game changed in five second-half minutes.

In the 55th minute, Granit Xhaka pulled Bernardo Silva by the shirt and after a VAR review, referee Stuart Attwell changed his mind and gave the spot kick. Gabriel was then shown a yellow card for digging up the penalty spot. Riyad Mahrez scored the equaliser.

In the 58th minute, Aymeric Laporte had his misplaced header cleared on the line by Nathan Ake and then straight from the kick out, Gabriel was shown a second yellow card for a blatant body check on Gabriel Jesus.

Arsenal tried to stay in the game but City wore them down and in the second minute of the six added on, Rodri broke Arsenal hearts by poking the winner. He celebrated in front of the Arsenal fans and they reacted with missiles in the City players’ direction.

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Many believed all the 50/50 challenges and calls went the way of Pep Guardiola’s side who have now gone 11 points ahead of a depleted second-placed Chelsea side who host third-placed Liverpool on Sunday. It looks there will be no catching City in 2022.

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