EPL

Man City and Arsenal play out Etihad draw as Liverpool take over top spot

By Sports Desk March 31, 2024

Title rivals Manchester City and Arsenal played out a hard-fought but largely forgettable goalless draw as Liverpool ended the weekend top of the Premier League.

After Jurgen Klopp’s men came back to beat Brighton earlier on Sunday, attention turned to the Etihad Stadium for the final league meeting between any of the three teams vying for glory.

But the high-profile clash fell well short of the pre-match hype as Pep Guardiola’s men were held by former City coach Mikel Arteta and his well-drilled Arsenal side in a cagey 0-0 draw – the first time in 76 Premier League games that last season’s treble winners have been involved in a goalless stalemate.

Whether this proves an important point for either side or a missed opportunity remains to be seen, with Liverpool now at the summit on 67 points ahead of Arsenal on 65 and City on 64.

There is sure to be plenty of twists and turns over final nine matches, but Sunday’s Etihad Stadium encounter was devoid of any such excitement.

Gabriel Jesus had Arsenal’s best opportunities in a drab first half dominated by the home side for most part without creating opportunities.

Referee Anthony Taylor gave little in terms of cards during a game that limped towards a draw, ending the Gunners’ eight-game losing streak in all competitions at the Etihad.

Guardiola made two changes to his starting line-up as Kevin De Bruyne and Nathan Ake came in for Jeremy Doku and the injured Kyle Walker, with Arsenal’s only alteration seeing Jesus replace Leandro Trossard.

The former City forward had the first meaningful chance of a tense afternoon, meeting Ben White’s cross from the right with a touch and strike narrowly wide. Arteta slapped his thighs in frustration.

But City were camped in the visitors’ half before and after that seventh-minute warning shot, albeit their patient probing and possession failed to translate into clear-cut chances.

Ake had the hosts’ only first-half attempt on target – a close-range shouldered effort straight at David Raya from a corner – and was forced off with an apparent calf injury in the 26th minute.

Rico Lewis replaced him shortly after Kai Havertz stretched to meet the ball in a challenge with Stefan Ortega and City’s subsequent defensive rejig was nearly punished by the Gunners five minutes later.

Good play down the right ended with a deep cross to Jakub Kiwior, who dropped the ball back for Jesus to jink into space and hit a low shot across the face of Ortega’s goal.

City responded with a few half-chances but were unable to seriously test an Arsenal side fortunate to go into half-time without a single booking to their name.

Mateo Kovacic bent a 20-yard effort wide within two minutes of the restart as Arsenal began to become as incensed with the lack of yellow cards and fouls as the hosts.

Arteta’s gesticulations in the technical area were mocked by City fans, who held their breath when Bukayo Saka got behind to slide a low ball across the face of goal that just evaded Jesus at the far post.

Manuel Akanji had smartly disrupted the forward’s move otherwise it could have been the opener.

Tempers were rising around the ground and there were ironic cheers in the 67th minute when Jesus received the first booking of the day after throwing the ball away.

But the former City man received applause from some of the home support when he was taken off among a swathe of changes made by both managers.

Arsenal star Saka was another replaced, walking off gingerly shortly after being caught out, but not punished, by De Bruyne.

Raya was booked for time-wasting as Taylor went to his pocket for just the second time, before both sides wasted chances to win it.

First Erling Haaland just failed to get his toe on a ball in the box, then substitute Trossard got behind to test Ortega when he needed a cleaner shot or a pass to Gabriel Martinelli.

Haaland received treatment late on and saw penalty hopes ignored, with the five minutes of stoppage time coming to nothing.

Prior to the match, Liverpool had come from behind to defeat Brighton 2-1 at Anfield. Danny Welbeck gave the visitors a shock lead after two minutes, but Luis Diaz and Mohamed Salah both scored to ensure the Reds emerged triumphant.

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