Arsenal come from behind twice to take point at Manchester City
Published 08/05/2016 | 18:11
Arsenal twice came from behind to claim a 2-2 draw at Manchester City that had contrasting implications for both sides' Champions League hopes.
Goals from Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez cancelled out efforts from Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne at the Etihad Stadium to all but guarantee the Gunners a place in the Barclays Premier League's top four.
But for fourth-placed City, despite a lively display much improved on recent games, the result was more damaging and their fate is now out of their hands.
Rivals Manchester United can now overtake them by winning their game in hand in midweek and there is a worry City could now begin the Pep Guardiola era without Champions League football.
The other major headline from the game was an injury to Arsenal and England striker Danny Welbeck, who limped off midway through the first half. His Euro 2016 hopes could now be in jeopardy.
The game got off to a frantic start with City clearly well aware of what the consequences of failing to win could be.
They were criticised for not showing enough attacking intent in their Champions League semi-final loss to Real Madrid in midweek but they could not be accused of that on this occasion.
The Gunners had hardly touched the ball when the lively Aguero found the space to turn on the edge of the area and drill home a low shot after just seven minutes.
Yet almost immediately City undid their good work as former Arsenal defender Gael Clichy wrong-footed Joe Hart with a header and almost handed his old side a bizarre equaliser.
A relieved Hart saw the funny side as the ball shaved the post but he was not laughing moments later as Giroud lost Eliaquim Mangala to head home from the resulting corner.
The drama continued as Welbeck went down holding his leg and an attempt to run off the problem proved fruitless. He shook his head and effectively substituted himself, walking off the field and straight down the tunnel.
His misfortune allowed another England international to press his Euro claims with Jack Wilshere coming on for only his second appearance of the season.
City reclaimed the initiative with Fernando and Fernandinho excellent in midfield, continually winning possession and setting up attacks.
Aguero had an effort deflected over and he barged a reckless Petr Cech out of the way on another charge but Jesus Navas scooped over.
De Bruyne twice threatened before the break and Arsenal did not take note as they allowed him to burst though to put City back in front after 51 minutes.
The Belgian ran unchallenged from halfway to the edge of the box and then beat Cech, who was slow to react, with a shot low to the keeper's right.
City could have had a third shortly afterwards but Kelechi Iheanacho shot wide aiming to beat Cech to the same bottom corner.
Arsenal again responded well to conceding and substitute Theo Walcott might have done better as he lifted the ball wide after racing through on goal. A second equaliser came moments later, however, as Sanchez broke from deep, playing a one-two with Giroud and then clipped a firm shot past Hart.
That was a move almost repeated by City but Aguero shot narrowly wide from from De Bruyne's clever return flick.
It proved City's last good chance as they were forced to settle for a draw and disappointment for Manuel Pellegrini in his last home match in charge.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
"Phew. Our qualification for a competition we never win is nearly safe again! #18yearsOfFailure #afc" - Arsenal moved a step closer towards qualifying for the Champions League next season and Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) took a tongue-in-cheek view.
Joe Hart: 6 (out of 10)
Bacary Sagna: 6
Eliaquim Mangala: 6
Nicolas Otamendi: 8
Gael Clichy: 6
Jesus Navas: 6
Kevin De Bruyne: 8
Kelechi Iheanacho: 6
Sergio Aguero: 8
Raheem Sterling (for Iheanacho, 71): 5
Yaya Toure (for Fernando, 79): 5
Wilfried Bony (for Navas, 79): 6
Petr Cech: 5
Hector Bellerin: 6
Laurent Koscielny: 7
Nacho Monreal: 6
Mohamed Elneny: 6
Aaron Ramsey: 6
Danny Welbeck: 5
Alex Iwobi: 5
Alexis Sanchez: 7
Olivier Giroud: 7
Jack Wilshere (for Welbeck, 24): 6
Theo Walcott (for Iwobi, 59): 7
Francis Coquelin (for Elneny, 76): 6
De Bruyne. The Belgian was uncharacteristically quiet for most of the first half but then served a warning to the Gunners with a couple of good runs before the break. He came into his own in the second half with a superb goal and more fine play that could have yielded more for City.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Sanchez's goal. Sanchez had been seen little in the game until the moment of magic that brought Arsenal level for a second time. He burst forward from halfway, found Giroud with a long pass and the return from the Frenchman was inch-perfect for the Chilean. The move still required a good finish, however, and Sanchez provided it.
VIEW FROM THE BENCH
This was another highly frustrating afternoon for Pellegrini on his final home match as City boss. His team exuded their manager's attacking philosophy, but they could not make it count. They surrendered the lead twice and consequently their top-four hopes are out of their hands. Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger spent a lot of time throwing his arms around as his side continually lost possession, but by the final whistle he should have been satisfied. The Gunners, with just relegated Aston Villa to play, are almost sure to be in the Champions League yet again.
MOAN OF THE MATCH
Nobody likes to see players injured, particularly so close to a major international championship. Seeing Danny Welbeck leave the field was a sad sight made all the worse by the fact he has worked so hard to get fit again.
WHO'S UP NEXT?
Swansea v Manchester City, Premier League (Sunday, May 15)
Arsenal v Aston Villa, Premier League (Sunday, May 15)
Outgoing Manchester City boss Pellegrini admits his last home game in charge did not go the way he had hoped.
City lost their Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid in midweek and are now clinging to a top-four place ahead of Sunday's final game away to Swansea.
Pellegrini, who has won two Capital One Cups and a Premier League title during his three-year reign, spoke to the club's supporters after the final whistle.
He said: "It is not the way we wanted to finish the season, we wanted to qualify for the final of the Champions League and win today for next season's Champions League.
"We (have had) three wonderful, unforgettable years, so all I can say to the fans is thanks for all of it. I will never forget you, and most of all don't change.
"This team needs you and I'm sure next year you will be very successful in all the competitions."
City midfielder Fernandinho told Sky Sports: "It's not easy, we need to win the last game, but we'll see what happens. In football a lot of things can happen.
"Of course we are disappointed today. We played well but conceded two easy goals. The first goal we conceded so early after we scored, and in the second half we created some chances to score and we conceded another goal."
Third-placed Arsenal remain three points above Manchester City and know victory at home to Aston Villa next Sunday will seal a place in the Champions League next season.
Gunners midfielder Wilshere, who came on for the injured Welbeck, said: "We think it's going to be a big point, we expect to win our home games.
"City are a good team, you don't want to be going 1-0 down early here but we showed great character, even when they went 2-1 up. It didn't look like we could get out of our half at times.
"At 2-1 it was a case of (hanging on in there), but when it went to 2-2 we knew we were going to have a lot of possession. We felt we could get them on the break."