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Martinelli strikes late as Arsenal end City curse

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By AFP


London – Arsenal ended their eight-year wait for a Premier League win over Manchester City as Gabriel Martinelli’s late strike sealed a dramatic 1-0 victory against the champions on Sunday.

After 12 successive league defeats at the hands of Pep Guardiola’s men, the Gunners enjoyed a moment of sweet redemption at the Emirates Stadium.

With just four minutes left, Martinelli’s shot took a hefty deflection off City defender Nathan Ake, sparking wild celebrations as Arsenal clinched a top-flight success against the treble winners for the first time since December 2015.

Arsenal had beaten City on penalties in the Community Shield in August, but that victory in the curtain-raiser to the domestic season could not be taken as seriously as this potentially crucial result.

It lifted unbeaten Arsenal two points above third-placed City into second place, leaving them behind leaders Tottenham on goals scored.

For the first time since December 2018, City have lost successive league games following their 2-1 defeat at Wolves last weekend.

Add in a League Cup loss against Newcastle and City have been beaten in three of their last four games.

It is a rare sign of vulnerability from a team who started their bid for a fourth successive title by winning the first six games of the season.

Few will expect City to surrender without a fight, but Guardiola has issues to solve as he looks to reinvigorate a squad that may have lost a little hunger after their treble triumph.

There is no lack of appetite for silverware among Arsenal as they try to erase the bitter taste of blowing an eight-point lead late in the season to finish five points behind City in second place.

Guardiola said this week that Arsenal “are back” as long-term challengers to City’s domestic supremacy thanks to the astute guidance of his former assistant Arteta.

For once, Guardiola lost the tactical duel with his protege as Arteta’s substitutions proved decisive and gave the title race an early plot twist.

Arteta masterstroke

City nearly took the lead inside five minutes when Josko Gvardiol’s lunging effort was headed off the line by Declan Rice after Arsenal goalkeeper David Raya misjudged a cross.

With Arsenal failing to clear the danger after that narrow escape, City’s Nathan Ake should scored from close range, but the defender wastefully fired over.

For the second time in the opening 20 minutes, Raya almost gifted City a goal as he took too long to deal with Gabriel’s back-pass, allowing Julian Alvarez to close the ‘keeper down and deflect his panicked clearance inches wide.

Eddie Nketiah tried to ease Arsenal’s stress when he cut inside the City area and curled wide of the far post.

Frantically waving his arms to the crowd, Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard raised the decibel levels before Mateo Kovacic brought the atmosphere to boiling point.

Crunching through the back of Odegaard’s ankle, Kovacic earned a booking after a VAR check for a potential red card.

If Arteta felt aggrieved that Kovacic wasn’t sent off for that challenge, the Gunners boss was apoplectic moments later after the Croatian avoided a second yellow card after chopping down Rice.

Following their tepid first half, Arsenal were the more forceful side after the break.

Martinelli, a half-time substitute, forced Ederson to save at his near post after sprinting onto Rice’s pass.

Frustrated by City’s disjointed display, Guardiola sent on John Stones, Jeremy Doku and Matheus Nunes, but the changes failed to produce the desired impact.

But Arteta countered by introducing Thomas Partey and Kai Havertz in a move that proved a masterstroke.

City looked content for a point as the half wore on with few chances, but Arsenal kept pressing and finally made the breakthrough in the 86th minute.

Partey’s long pass reached Havertz and he laid the ball off to Martinelli on the edge of the area, where the Brazilian smashed a fierce strike that took a wicked deflection off Ake as it flashed past the wrong-footed Ederson.