City make it 11 Premier League wins in a row against Arsenal, and the champions return to the top of the table!
90 min +4: The Emirates empties out as the game fizzles to an end. “City proved me wrong, they do have character,” writes Jeff Sax magnanimously. “But I won’t change my brand of tea.”
90 min +2: Trossard drops a shoulder to make some space down the left, but having seen off Walker, floats his cross harmlessly over the bar. “It’s quite surreal to see Haaland’s stats this season,” begins Alexandra Ashton. “Thirty-two goals, 26 (!) league goals in 22 appearances. This is especially impressive when you take into account he’s ‘not been at his best’ in 2023, scoring a mere five goals in seven appearances including this match. So much for City being better off without him.”
90 min +1: On Amazon Prime, Ally McCoist names Kevin De Bruyne as his player of the match.
90 min: There will be five added minutes. Still time for Arsenal to stun City with a quickfire double?
89 min: Arsenal stroke it around more in hope than expectation. Or so it seems. Suddenly they turn up the intensity, Saka whipping a ball in from the right. Nketiah stoops and guides a header wide left. For the second time tonight, he’s spurned a decent chance to head home from close range. The small margins.
88 min: De Bruyne, scorer of an outstanding goal this evening, is replaced by Phillips.
87 min: White takes a speculative whack from distance. It’s easily blocked.
85 min: Odegaard probes down the right and cuts back to nobody in particular. Haaland tries to counter down the left but runs out of road. The home fans are in an understandable funk now, the Emirates quiet, collectively deflated.
84 min: Arsenal replace Tomiyasu and Xhaka with White and Vieira.
83 min: That’s Haaland’s 32nd goal of the season. This is quite astonishing.
… but it’s the City fans in fine voice now. De Bruyne bursts into the box down the right, chasing Gundogan’s pass. De Bruyne cuts back for Haaland, who takes a touch and threads a wonderful shot across Ramsdale and into the bottom left! Arsenal cut to ribbons with precision!
81 min: Jorginho wedges a pass down the inside-right channel in the hope of releasing Nketiah, but Akanji shepherds the ball back to Ederson. With time running out for their heroes, the Arsenal fans dig deep and raise the volume again.
79 min: Zinchenko dinks a clever reverse pass down the inside left. Trossard clatters into Walker, just inside the box. Arsenal make a half-hearted claim for a penalty, but neither referee nor VAR shows interest in giving one. City clear their lines.
78 min: The Emirates is fairly quiet now, save the City fans giving it plenty. “I’d better brew a new pot,” sighs tea-leaf seer and Earl Grey enthusiast Jeff Sax.
77 min: … then Grealish makes way for Foden.
76 min: Martinelli is replaced by Trossard …
75 min: Arsenal aren’t in the mood to let this lie, and pour forward in search of a quick leveller. Xhaka has the ball at his feet just inside the City box, but hesitates and allows Dias to block with a perfectly timed tackle. It had to be, or Arsenal were taking their second penalty of the evening.
73 min: Gabriel will be wishing he’d put his boot through the ball to clear, though. As things stand, City are going top of the league on goal difference!
… and it’s City who respond with a fine move of their own! Haaland is sent scampering into a bit of space down the right by Silva, who took advantage of Gabriel’s poor pass upfield. Haaland thinks about shooting but rolls infield for Gundogan on the edge of the box. Gundogan dummies for Grealish, rushing in from the left. Grealish takes a touch and passes into the bottom right! A deflection flummoxed Ramsdale, but that’s a fine goal!
71 min: Arsenal play the ball patiently out from the back, then suddenly spring forward. Xhaka tries to release Nketiah down the inside-left channel only to clank carelessly out for a free kick. He grimaces accordingly. Good luck guessing which way this is going to go. Both teams are going hell for leather!
69 min: De Bruyne swings it in. Arsenal don’t deal with it. Rodri heads towards the bottom right. Ramsdale spills. Akanji prods the loose ball forward. Saliba hacks clear. Then City come again, Silva playing Haaland in down the right. Haaland prepares to round Ramsdale only for the keeper to smother at his feet. This is rip-roaring fun!
67 min: Saka brings down Grealish, who had cleverly stepped ahead of the Arsenal man as they battled down the inside-left channel. De Bruyne to take the free kick, just outside the Arsenal box.
66 min: Odegaard slips Tomiyasu into acres down the right. Tomiyasu fizzes a glorious ball across the face of goal and out of Ederson’s reach. But Nketiah can’t get there in time to poke home. Had he gone any earlier, he’d have surely been offside, so it was never meant to be.
64 min: Now it’s Nketiah going into the book for a late clip on Dias. A fair chance this won’t end with 22 men on the pitch.
63 min: Grealish is booked for arguing the toss over a goal kick. “Like all Gooners I’ve been desperate to be back at the sharp end of things, but I’d clean forgotten how much more stressful it is,” writes Tim Gilkison. “I’ll be fully grey haired by the time this match is done.”
62 min: Silva is finally relieved of his left-back beat. Mahrez is replaced by Akanji, who joins a back four, Ake taking over the responsibility of keeping Saka quiet.
60 min: It’s all happening, as seconds after the restart, Haaland contests a high ball with Gabriel and sticks the point of his elbow in the defender’s lug. VAR has a look at that, too, but it’s an accidental foul, nothing more.
59 min: Yep! Haaland was indeed just offside before starting his run that ended with him being hauled down in the box. Gabriel had been booked for his part in the initial penalty decision, so the referee rescinds the yellow.
58 min: … but they’re checking if Haaland was an inch or two offside as he received the pass before spinning Gabriel. Will VAR save Arsenal this time?
57 min: Gabriel and Haaland tussle as they chase a long pass down the right. Haaland spins Gabriel and enters the box. Gabriel takes a handful of Haaland’s shirt, then tangles his legs. Haaland goes over and the referee points to the spot!
56 min: Saka and Odegaard exchange crisp passes down the right. The former cuts back for Jorginho, who rolls a diagonal ball towards Nketiah on the edge of the six-yard box. Ederson smothers just in time. A neat move by Arsenal.
54 min: There hasn’t been too much in the way of top-of-the-table quality since the restart. A lot of top-of-the-table industry, though. No quarter given.
52 min: The ball flies out of play and towards Arteta in his technical area. The Arsenal boss cheekily guards the ball from De Bruyne, who wanted to take a quick throw. De Bruyne gives him a light shove by way of retribution. The sort of thing that could spark a bench-emptying brawl, though there’s a sense that Arteta knew full well he was trying it on, and understood De Bruyne’s reaction as a former competitor himself … so didn’t respond or escalate. All good fun amid the heat of the action. Right?
50 min: City seem to be pressing with a bit more urgency since the restart. Most of the play is now in Arsenal’s half as a result, albeit with no real danger to their goal as of yet.
48 min: Tomiyasu is booked for taking an age over a throw. The referee has been nothing if not consistent. “Nothing beats Earl Grey,” gargles Jeff Sax. A bergamot-infused back-and-forth. Could anything be more Guardian?
47 min: Slightly surprising that Silva, perpetually hassled by Saka during that first half and on a booking as a result, is still on duty as stand-in left back for City.
Norwegian pals Haaland and Odegaard enjoy a good laugh both in the tunnel and then in the centre circle …
Roy Keane the purists won’t like it, but that’s lovely to see … and then Arsenal get the game restarted. No changes. “Earl Grey (43 min) is going to be of no help to Arsenal,” suggests Nickdastardly. “Not when City have Lord Pannick.”
Half-time advertisement. Sign up now for our free weekly roundup of the wonderful world of women’s football!
Well that was fun. Here’s how things stand at the break!
45 min +6: Mahrez curls in from the left. Rodri stoops at the far post to head goalwards. The ball pings off Ake, then off the crossbar! Ramsdale is forced to paw out for a corner, from which nothing comes. City so close to regaining the lead during the last knockings of a thoroughly entertaining first half.
45 min +4: Haaland makes a nuisance of himself chasing a speculative long pass down the left and draws a foul from Saliba. Free kick. One last twist in the first-half tale?
45 min +2: Silva finally goes into the book for an agricultural lunge on Saka. Given he’s been extremely fortunate to get away with a couple of fouls earlier in the piece, don’t expect to see him continue at left-back in the second half.
45 min +1: The first of six added minutes – ah the heady rush of a World Cup flashback – and it’s a free kick to City out on the right. De Bruyne curls it into the Arsenal box only for Gabriel to eyebrow away from danger.
45 min: Walker throws in long from the right. Grealish chests down. The ball breaks to Haaland, who scuffs a shot from 12 yards. It breaks to Gundogan, whose effort is turned around the post by Ramsdale. But there’s no corner for City, because Gundogan was a few inches offside.
43 min: That’s a really impressive response from Arsenal, you know, having gone behind despite being the better team. The Emirates is at boiling point now! “Arsenal to win according to my Earl Grey,” sips Jeff Sax.
Saka, after being made to wait for what seems an age, gives Ederson the eyes. The keeper goes the wrong way Saka passes calmly into the bottom left! The leaders are on terms!
41 min: Plenty of on-pitch debate. But Ederson is adjudged to have skittled Nketiah as the Arsenal striker went round him. VAR’s not going to get in the way of that decision!
39 min: Ake passes back, and just for a second, looks to have hoicked the ball into his own goal. Ederson traps and clears just in time. But Arsenal soon come back at City. Xhaka passes down the inside-left channel. Nketiah rounds Ederson on the left and, falling backwards, flicks towards the empty net. Ake slides in to whip off the line … but the referee points to the spot!
38 min: Those bookings have got the Arsenal faithful’s collective dander up. A fine, combative response from the home fans, despite the scoreline.
36 min: Martinelli plays a cute pass down the left but can’t quite release Saka, who accidentally handles. Ederson takes his sweet time over the restart, and is the second City player in short order to pick up a needless booking.