LONDON: Arsenal ended eight years of hurt with a long-awaited 1-0 victory over champions Manchester City which took them joint top of the Premier League.

The “match of the season so far” ended with Arsenal trailing North London neighbours Tottenham only on goal scored as City lost a second successive league match for the first time in nearly five years. However, neither Arsenal or City were convincing which will have been encouraging for watching Tottenham and Liverpool.

Last season City took control of their Premier title race with a 4-1 defeat of the Gunners with six matches remaining. That was their 12th successive Premier win and conclusively punctured the Gunners’ title bid.

Since then Arsenal had enjoyed the consolation of having beaten City twice over, off and on the pitch. First Arsenal outbid City to buy England midfielder Declan Rice from West Ham for £105m in the summer then they defeated the reigning champions on penalties in the FA Community Shield.

Just as Arsenal had strengthened their squad during the summer so City had now been weakened by the injuries which ruled out John Stones in defence and Kevin de Bruyne in midfield plus the suspension of anchor man Rodri from defensive midfield. Arsenal’s only casualty was Bukayo Saka, injured in the Champions League defeat by Lens. Kai Havertz dropped to the substitutes’ bench.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta had surprised fans by bringing in fellow Spaniard David Raya as his No1 goalkeeper in place of Aaron Ramsdale. Raya had made his first serious mistake in the midweek Champions League defeat by Lens but retained his place. He was then almost caught out of position in the fourth minute and Rice had to head off the goal-line from Josko Gvardiol.

A nervy Raya was then very nearly chased down by Julen Alvarez as Arsenal again stumbled under pressure.

City’s 4-2-3-1, as they pushed forward, was bringing them a greater midfield presence than Arsenal’s 3-4-3. That imbalance led to Phil Foden drawing an early yellow card for Jorginho as the England forward escaped down the left. But City’s Mateo Kovacic was fortunate to escape yellow or even red in the 35th minute for a late challenge which felled Rice.

Surprisingly Kovacic, who had been booked earlier for a tackle from behind on Martin Odegaard, was not replaced by manager Pep Guardiola at the interval. Arsenal, however, replaced Leandro Trossard with fit-again Gabriel Martinelli.

Arsenal took the initiative and City manager Pep Guardiola tried to reinvigorate his team with a triple change which did include Kovacic’s replacement.

Arteta responded by introducing Havertz, with his happy history against City. The switch paid off. Takehiro Tomiyasu headed down a cross, Havertz pushed the ball back and Martinelli’s shot skimmed into the net via Ake for the only goal.