Arsenal halt Man City top four challenge after Sanchez strikes
Holly Thackeray | May 8, 2016
Manchester City 2-2 Arsenal
- Aguero fired City into lead within eight minutes
- Arsenel levelled almost instantly as Giroud struck in 10th
- Welbeck left pitch with apparent knee injury
- De Bruyne dispatched in 50th minute to put Sky Blues back ahead
- Sanchez found another equaliser for Arsenal
- Pellegrini’s last Etihad outing as Man City manager
City unstuck against Arsenal
It was all drama at the Etihad, as the scrap for the Premier League top four intensified, with Manchester City dropping points in the race with a thrilling 2-2 against Arsenal.
Sergio Aguero had put the Sky Blues ahead early on with a sublime effort, before Olivier Giroud responded to seemingly spoil Manuel Pellegrini’s Etihad leaving party. Though Kevin De Bruyne’s even more sensational second-half strike gave hope to home fans, Alexis Sanchez made sure it all ended evenly on the night.
With rivals Manchester United to play on Tuesday and just two points behind, will City (15/8 with Coral to win the 2016/17 Premier League) compound their Champions League exit by failing to provide incoming coach Pep Guardiola with the chance to take part in the competition?
Early Etihad excitement
It took just eight minutes for Aguero to whip the home support into a frenzy, exploiting an indecisive Arsenal rearguard and setting up end-to-end opening exchanges.
The Argentine lashed a lovely strike into the low right-hand corner, pirouetting in the area to go one behind Harry Kane in the hunt for the Premier League Golden Boot after Fernandinho had knocked down Jesus Navas’ scooped cross.
Man City’s marvellous early work was undone almost instantly, despite looking much more comfortable than their Gunners guests, as Gael Clichy almost helped his former club out by heading a wayward ball back to Joe Hart.
The keeper was caught out and it appeared as though the entire Etihad stadium held its breath as the ball trickled just past the post. It was not the inexplicable error itself that allowed Arsenal back in then, but the subsequent corner, when loosely marked Giroud jumped highest and escaped City’s sloppy attentions to nod home an equaliser only two minutes after going behind.
Eliaquim Mangala was the culprit on this occasion, but there was dire defending by both sides. Though Gunners centre half Gabriel Paulista bucked the trend shortly after with a decisive deflection that narrowly redirected another excellent Aguero attempt, after Fernando’s dancing feet fed the Argentine.
Welbeck worry for England
Despite that let off, Arsenal were dented as Danny Welbeck was forced off the pitch around the 21st minute mark with what looked a knee niggle. England boss Roy Hodgson will no doubt be hoping his Three Lions forward is not suffering from something serious ahead of Euro 2016, his injury sustained after attempting to challenge Bacary Sagna.
As for Arsene Wenger, the Frenchman was then forced into Plan C as Welbeck had already been called on at the last minute when Mesut Ozil pulled out of the match with a hip problem. In a bright spot for Hodgson, however, midfield schemer Jack Wilshere was able to then get game time at Welbeck’s expense.
The first 45 slowed somewhat after that, though the Gunners were lucky again as Petr Cech and Laurent Koscielny got their rearguard wires crossed when trying to intercept alert Aguero, but neither the striker nor wingman Navas could help the Citizens capitalise.
De Bruyne bags for Sky Blues
In a sight that is now quite familiar to Premier League fans, brilliant De Bruyne took matters for Man City into his own hands, putting Pellegrini’s men back ahead just five minutes after the break.
With a burst of acceleration from deep, De Bruyne drove fearlessly at Arsenal’s defence. The Gunners back-peddled but could not get close to the Belgian before he completed his superb solo strike, beating Cech easily at the near post.
Young-gun Kelechi Iheanacho tried a similar move moments later, but did not deliver the same end product as his older peer, seemingly caught in two minds as to whether to pass or go for glory.
Sanchez strikes City a blow
Not wanting to be outdone, Arsenal suddenly came alive around the 69th minute following the introduction of Theo Walcott and once again fought back to give City the blues.
Walcott had forced Hart to come scrambling off his line and it was a sign of things to come, as Sanchez then took up the mantle from midfield and charged at the Citizens’ vulnerable backline.
After a lightning quick one-two with Giroud, whose lovely lay-off fell precisely to the Chilean, Sanchez stroked home the return to make it all even at the Etihad, and prick up the ears at neighbouring Old Trafford.
De Bruyne and Aguero combined terrifically again, with the Belgian pinging a ball over the top for his teammate to volley, but there was no cigar as the shot drifted inches wide. Giroud also cracked one against the crossbar, but it was City who piled the pressure on in the closing minutes, with Wilfried Bony also falling foul of the woodwork.
All eyes will turn to Tuesday night when Man Utd face West Ham United at Upton Park, can Louis van Gaal’s guys take advantage of this Citizens slip-up?
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