LONDON: Normal service has been restored after champions Manchester City reclaimed top spot in the Premier League with a decisive 3-1 victory away to long-time leaders Arsenal in north London.
Arsenal, beaten at home for the first time this season and in all league matches for only the third time, had only themselves to blame. Defensive blunders helped gift City’s first and third goals to Kevin de Bruyne and Erling Haaland. Jack Grealish scored City’s second to regain the lead after a first-half penalty equaliser from Bukayo Saka.
Haaland had been declared fit to take his place in the City attack after a muscle injury had forced his substitution at halftime at the weekend..
Arsenal made two changes from the team held 1-1 at home by Brentford on Saturday. Ex-Chelsea midfielder Jorginho replaced injured Thomas Partey in midfield with the recently-impressive Japan international Takehiro Tomiyasu replacing Ben White in defence.
Haaland at one end and Eddie Nketiah at the other were off target from the initial openings before Kevin de Bruyne put City ahead in the 24th after Jack Grealish pressured Tomiyasu into mistiming an intended back pass for keeper Aaron Ramsdale.
Arsenal immediately sought to hit back. Tomiyasu volleyed over the bar and Bukayo Saka delayed a shot too long when well placed.
City struggled to hold out. Kyle Walker was booked for rushing back into defence after treatment without the referee’s permission then Ederson was booked for time wasting.
Nketiah was a perpetual danger. First he had a shot cleared off the line by Nathan Ake then he was felled in a collision with Ederson after bursting into the penalty box. Saka struck a deserved equaliser from the spot.
At 21 years 163 days old, Saka was the youngest player to score 25 league goals for Arsenal, breaking the record held by Cesc Fabregas at 22 years 237 days. Ederson’s challenge was badly timed rather than reckless which saved him from a second yellow card and red.
City almost equalised in first half stoppage time when a Ruben Dias header hit the posts but a goal would have been unfair on Arsenal.
The match grew disjointed in the second half before Jack Grealish restored City’s lead with his first-ever goal against Arsenal.
Again the Gunners were guilty of sloppy defending. Gabriel gifted possession to Bernardo Silva who moved the ball on so Haaland could find Grealish running into space from the left. The England forward’s shot flew beyond Ramsdale with the help of a deflection off the luckless Tomiyasu.
Nine more minutes and Haaland fired his 32nd goal of the season in all competitions to extend City’s lead after superb link-up work at high speed between Ilkay Gundogan and De Bruyne through the right-hand channel. Haaland controlled De Bruyne’s short cross with his left foot and shot home with his right.