Manchester City (1) 3 Arsenal (0) 0
Etihad Stadium, 318 Ashton New Rd, Manchester M11 3F
Wednesday, 17th June 2020. Kick-off time: 8.15pm
(4-2-3-1) Bernd Leno; Hector Bellerin, Pablo Marí, Shkodran Mustafi, Kieran Tierney; Granit Xhaka, Mattéo Guendouzi; Eddie Nketiah, Joe Willock, Bukayo Saka; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Substitutes: Dani Ceballos, Alexandre Lacazette, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Nicolas Pépé, David Luiz, Reiss Nelson, Emiliano Martínez, Sead Kolašinac, Gabriel Martinelli.
Red Cards: David Luiz
Yellow Cards: Kieran Tierney
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 32%
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Attendance: A maximum of 300 attendees due to UK government coronavirus restructions
Where have we all been, what have we not seen? So much has happened in the interim, that it would take a weighty tome to explain and summarise everything; but the main thing surely, is that the sport we all truly love is back after a lengthy hiatus, and we all heartily welcome its long overdue return. No two ways about it, we have to accrue as many points possible from the remaining matches in order to ensure European football for next season, starting with the tough match in Manchester tonight. And then there is the small matter of the FA Cup to play for as well. Let’s go!
One minute silence to remember the victims of coronavirus in the dank and dark Manchester rain just before the kick-off proved to be the moving and poignant action that it was intended to be in these changing times. Bernd Leno was called into action early on, when he pushed away a Kevin de Bruyne shot which proved to be more dangerous than was first thought. Sadly Granit Xhaka was injured in this incident, and had to be replaced by Dani Ceballos, when it was realised that his injury was worse than first thought. Although the home side had the best of the early period, it was Eddie Nketiah who was desperately unlucky in not scoring when his shot went narrowly wide after just twelve minutes. How unlucky, to lose two players within twenty-five minutes when Pablo Marí was forced to leave the match with an injury, to be replaced by the much-maligned David Luiz, who immediately dovetailed into his usual position in the back four. Minutes later, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was unlucky not to score when his side-footed shot went over the bar, and by the half-hour mark, Arsenal started to play some interesting shapes across the pitch, The match became quite spirited and fast-paced now, and in the absence of a much-needed goal, both sides showed intent and passion. Bernd Leno made a match-saving parry after thirty-four minutes from David Silva, and City started to apply pressure on the Arsenal defence. Shkodran Mustafi was unlucky not to score when he failed to connect a ball from a Bukayo Saka free-kick minutes before the break, and in injury time, an unfortunate bounce of the ball from the thigh of David Luiz found the right foot of Raheem Sterling,who wasted no time in putting the home side ahead.
Three minutes into the second half, a clumsy tackle by David Luiz on Riyad Mahrez not only gifted City a penalty (which they subseuqently scored, courtesy of Kevin de Bruyne), but he got sent off for his trouble, and we were down to ten men with forty minutes of the match left to play. With an extra player on the pitch, the home side started to feel the wind behind them and controlled everything fairly confidently now. Arsenal now appeared to play a match of damage limitation, which really meant that they were pinned down in their own half for periods of the game. Thanks to the extra substitute rule of this final period of the season, Mikel Arteta brought on Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Alex Lacazette and Reiss Nelson for Eddie Nketiah, Mattéo Guendouzi and Joe Willock to try and get something/anything out of this seemingly lost match. Time and time again Bernd Leno kept out shots from the City players, and had it not been for his agility and skill, things could have been a whole lot worse than they were. An injuty to Eric Garcia when Ederson collided with him meant that both sides were down to ten men for the rest of the match, as all substitutes had now been used, so in an odd turn of events, numerically we were equal again. Or maybe not. In the first minute of eleven minutes injury time, Phil Foden bagged City’s third after Sergio Aguero’s shot bounced off the post. And still City kept coming, with relentless attacking football, right until the merciful final whistle.
Football may well be coming home, but it certainly never looked in our direction tonight. Although we started the match in good heart, the home side gradually and slowly took control and dominance. After David Luiz was dismissed, we were doomed; City punished us so badly at times, it started to look like a training match. We have got to pick ourselves up for the Brighton match in three days’ time, and start picking up points before events run away from us. Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions.Stick with the winners.
Our next match: Brighton and Hove Albion at AMEX Stadium, Village Way, Brighton BN1 9BL on Saturday, 20th June at 3.00pm (Premier League).
Be there, if you can. Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.