Manchester City stole all three points deep into injury time as Rodri scored late on in a ill-tempered 2-1 win over Arsenal. Despite a spirited performance from the home side, which saw their fans aggrieved at a number of refereeing decisions, City once again got the job done to extend their lead at the top of the Premier League to 11 points.
Mikel Arteta, absent on the touchline due to Covid, saw his team come to life in the first half as the Gunners began with all the pressing intent we have become used to seeing from the Citizens. The man who learnt his trade under Pep Guardiola has clearly taken some of his ideologies and was using them against him as Arsenal pressed and harried the City back-line.
Martin Odegaard’s early shout for a penalty was turned down by both the referee and VAR before Ruben Dias missed a free header from just eight yards out after a Raheem Sterling cross.
Arsenal had started with fight and intent, and looked a completely different outfit to the one that had been beaten 5-0 by Guardiola’s men at the Etihad. The opening goal was one that typified this attacking intent as Kieran Tierney raced forward and played a ball across the edge of the area, where Bukayo Saka was waiting to finish into the bottom corner.
Saka deserves huge credit for his performances this season, especially given the summer he endured having missed England’s crucial penalty in the Euro 2020 final. Unlike so many of his international teammates, Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire and Harry Kane to name but a few, Saka has flourished this term rather than suffering from an England hangover. Gabriel Martinelli then saw his curling shot go past the upright before he beat Joao Cancelo and put his left-footed effort wide of the post.
However City returned from the break with renewed vigour. Just when Arsenal were holding the champions off, Granit Xhaka brought down Bernardo Silva in the box and Riyad Mahrez converted the resulting penalty. It was a clumsy challenge to say the least but Stuart Attwell did not initially give the foul, but was advised by VAR to award the penalty which again drew ire from the home crowd, given Odegaard’s earlier shout had been ignored by VAR.
Rodri shoves the ball home and sparks wild celebrations...
11 wins in a row!
Gabriel’s scuffing of the penalty spot did not put off the taker, and also earned him a yellow card which would be a pivotal moment in the match just moments later.
Just after levelling the scores, in a moment of chaos, City nearly handed the lead back to the hosts. Aymeric Laporte attempted to guide a header back to his goalkeeper but managed to loop the ball over him and only Nathan Ake’s pace meant he was able to get the ball off the line. Despite the clearance, Arsenal still should have gone ahead as Martinelli blasted the ball against the outside of the post when the goal was gaping.
If you were looking for more fireworks after last night’s celebrations, this match certainly delivered. From the resulting goal-kick, the Gunners made life much tougher for themselves as Gabriel clattered into Gabriel Jesus and was shown a second yellow card, Arsenal's 100th red in Premier League history. In a minute of madness, Arsenal had imploded, and despite all the quibbles with VAR - it was their own players that cost them three points.
First Xhaka, and then Gabriel, as Rodri struck late on. The ball was whipped in towards Laporte and as he poked the ball towards goal it fell to Rodri who slid the ball past Aaron Ramsdale. His celebration, whipping his shirt off and running the irate Arsenal fans, typified the ill-feeling this entire match had, but that goal was one of huge importance for City.
Now they really do look unstoppable and even though they weren't at their best today, they got the job done. Arsenal may look at the officials for excuses, but with Martinelli’s misses, Xhaka’s foul and Gabriel’s red card, they must accept that this defeat was one of their own making.