Sergio Aguero’s return outweighed Kevin De Bruyne’s loss as Manchester City booked both their first Premier League home win and the first out of the season.
This was determined rather than blinding City, with Raheem Sterling showing the advantage of resting during the international break by scoring the only goal halfway through the first half.
Aguero, looking sharp having missed the last 17 games after knee surgery, played a part in the winner and fed Phil Foden whose shot was parried by Bernd Leno in Sterling’s path.
Raheem Sterling’s quiet left-footed finish early in the first half at the Etihad proved the difference against Arsenal
Sterling was City’s biggest threat all evening and that was celebrated after finishing a rebound from Phil Foden’s rescued attempt
Arsenal received a penalty shout just before half-time when Kyle Walker challenged Gabriel with a high foot
Manchester City: Ederson, Walker, Dias, Ake, Joao Cancelo, Bernardo Silva, Rodri, Foden (Fernandinho 89), Mahrez, Aguero (Gundogan 65), Sterling
Subs not used: Stones, Steffen, Torres, Delap, Garcia
Scorers: Sterling (23)
Booked: Rodri, Cancelo, Dias, Ake
Arsenal: Leno, Luiz, Gabriel, Tierney, Bellerin, Ceballos, Xhaka (Thomas 83), Saka, Pepe (Nketiah 83), Aubameyang, Willian (Lacazette 69)
Subs not used: Runarsson, Maitland-Niles, Elneny
Referee: Chris Kavanagh
The finish proved his hamstring problem that caused him to miss England’s final group and Pep Guardiola had good reason to be relieved with Aymeric Laporte, Gabriel Jesus and Benjamin Mendy alongside De Bruyne.
Sterling, who had to play as a false nine this season, returned deeper, happy to have Aguero back.
Equally importantly, City looked solid from the back after sending five goals to Leicester on their last appearance at The Etihad. Kyle Walker slid into the center of defense where he helped lock the door for Arsenal danger man Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, who still hasn’t scored since signing a new contract last month.
“It was so important to our minds given the problems we’ve had,” reflected Pep Guardiola, aware that City was already starting the evening nine points behind leader Everton.
‘Everyone has had their own problems, but for the season we only trained for one or two weeks. The team was incredible how they fought and played. ‘
For Arsenal it was close, but no cigar. They still haven’t won on a Big Six team in the league since defeating City in 2015 and they were foiled on this occasion when Ederson was saved from Bukayo Saka and Kyle Walker was not penalized for a high kick that took Gabriel from a corner kick caught.
“ We’d like to go win anywhere, ” said Mikel Arteta, whose side was happy to sit back as they had by beating City in last season’s FA Cup semi-finals, and only went on the front foot in it. last part of the game when attackers Alexander Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah were sent to aid Aubameyang.
City-Arsenal’s matches take on special significance today because of the relationship between Guardiola and Arteta, once master and apprentice at The Etihad.
They are already developing an interesting history as rivals. City convincingly beat The Gunners in the first game after lockdown, but Arteta retaliated with his tactical masterclass at Wembley.
Agüero was not available on the occasion and yesterday the return of their record scorer was big news for City.
Sergio Agüero returned for City but was apparently not quite up to working standard and was plunged into the second half.
Arsenal’s new £ 45m addition to Thomas Partey came late in the second half for his debut, but failed to inspire a comeback
Foden had a golden opportunity to get to City 2-0 before the break, but was denied by a good save from Bernd Leno
On the other hand, Ederson was on duty to stop Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from scoring the tying run in the first half.
Looking ready from the opening minutes, he got his bleached hair to an early Riyad Mahrez junction and turned a head wide open.
Arsenal have started the season more steadily than City, but the home side earned Sterling’s lead at 23 minutes after a nice move involving Aguero.
The striker carried the ball from Mahrez’s pass deep into the Arsenal half and released Foden to the left.
The City youth cut in and fired in on Bernd Leno whose block fell kindly to Sterling who shot in left legged.
It was Sterling’s sixth goal in five Premier League games against Arsenal in the league and justified his withdrawal from international service as a precautionary measure due to a tight hamstring.
Sterling and Bernardo Silva also acted to cover the lack of creativity in midfield due to De Bruyne’s absence.
Bukayo Saka shows his frustration after having his curly bet tapped over the bar by the City goalkeeper
Nicolas Pepe came close immediately after the break, but was unable to choose a corner and headed straight for Ederson
Watching Mikel Arteta and Pep Guardiola compete on the sidelines was an interesting part of the game
KYLE WALKER DANGEROUS LIFE
CHRIS FOY – EXPERT OPINION
Kyle Walker’s right foot is clearly high on Gabriel, but referee Chris Kavanagh decided it was no mistake.
Any foul would have been dangerous for play resulting in an indirect free kick.
VAR only checks for red cards and penalties and so would not have intervened.
Mahrez tested Leno and then saw Gabriel get into an excellent block trying to disrupt the rebound. Foden found space in the penalty area, but chose a low rather than a poor finish and Leno spread to save.
Arsenal’s best outlet was young Bukayo Saka, who just got his England debut from Gareth Southgate.
A brilliant Arsenal football approaching halftime saw Saka and Aubameyang converge on the edge of the City box. The young winger stormed into the area and his shot to the top corner hit Ederson’s chest and flew wide.
After the break there was more urgency from the visitors. Aubameyang, who played centrally, closed Ederson so quickly that the goalkeeper was able to eliminate the Arsenal captain for a City pitch by the byline.
The cheers of Arsenal’s various coaches and analysts scattered around the stadium grew louder in a mixture of English and Spanish.
Agüero was withdrawn halfway through the second half after a good shift, with Ilkay Gundogan as a replacement.
Out of habit, Aguero went up to raise his hand to applaud the fans when his song came on – before realizing the stadium was empty.
Grinning, he still applauded the handful of staff who showed their appreciation throughout the stadium.
Cancelo was warned for scraping his studs around the back of Kieran Tierney’s Achilles and Ruben Dias also saw yellow for stopping Saka in full flight.
Arteta pitched to attackers Alexander Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah to try and take advantage of City’s jitters. Jitters that were almost calmed when Luiz almost got behind his own goal.
But it was The Gunners who pushed for the equalizer in injury time. The fact that City withstood the pressure and got away with a clean slate and three points will make Guardiola just as happy as some of the great tiki-taka stuff they are more used to.
Bernardo Silva pulled the strings in midfield in the absence of key man Kevin De Bruyne on Saturday evening
Riyad Mahrez threatened City the entire game and came close to scoring a number of times
Arteta’s men played well, but never worried City too much and will be somewhat disappointed if they walk away empty-handed
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