Manchester: A solitary goal was enough to see Manchester City move into the fifth round of the FA Cup at the expense of Premier League leaders Arsenal. In what was largely an equally balanced match, City eventually scored almost halfway into the second-half.
City manager Pep Guardiola was delighted with his goal scorer Nathan Ake and said: “What a season he’s playing. He controlled one of the toughest opponents in the Premier League, because (Arsenal’s) Bukayo Saka is in an incredible moment. He’s an exceptional guy, there was a period where Nathan didn’t play (in the team) and he never complained once.”
He added: “Arsenal have taken a step forward. It was a tight game and you realise how good a side they are. I did not expect the approach from them – man to man – it was difficult to build up, but we beat the team at the top of the league and are into the next round.”
Man-of-the-match Ake said: “It was the first one I ever scored with my right foot, so I’m pleased with that. This gives us confidence for the next game. There’s still more to come. They are a very tough team. We stayed strong and didn’t concede.”
City and Arsenal meet again in the league next month in a game that could have a significant impact on the outcome of the title race with City at present in second place, five points behind the leaders. Guardiola will be hoping this setback will knock Arsenal players out of their stride as the pressure gets to them in going for their first league title in two decades.
The one disappointment for City was the loss of centre-half John Stones to a hamstring injury just before half-time and Guardiola accused the England international of not being ready to play. The manager said: “He was not ready (fit). I saw it from the first minutes and when that happens you get injured.”
Arsenal began well and could have scored early when Trossard put through a pass to Takehero Tomiyasu, but a powerful long-range shot was pushed away Stefan Ortega. After a goalless first half there seemed more urgency for both sides. City attacked from the start after the break and Erling Haaland beat Gabriel but put the ball over the bar.
The deadlock was finally broken with the winning goal in the 64th minute. A 25-yard firm low drive by substitute Julian Alvarez crashed against the post and rebounded to Jack Grealish who brilliantly beat two defenders to pass behind to Ake whose controlled shot across the goal went just inside the far post.
There was more pressure from Arsenal in the late stages and Eddie Nketiah would have equalised but for an excellent lunging interception from Laporte.
Arsenal manager, Mikel Arteta said: “We’re really disappointed. We could have got much more out of the game. It’s really difficult to win against this team, but we went head-to-head with them, in big moments, in big matches you have to make the difference. That’s how you win these games.”