Sunday, July 21, 2024

Rampant Man City crush Arsenal with De Bruyne double

MANCHESTER : A Kevin De Bruyne-inspired Manchester City struck a hammer blow in the Premier League title race as they outclassed leaders Arsenal 4-1 with an electrifying display in a seismic clash of the top two at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.

Pep Guardiola’s relentless side ran riot as they made it 12 successive league wins against Arsenal with a masterful De Bruyne scoring twice and Erling Haaland also on target as City seized control of their destiny.

De Bruyne fired City ahead in the seventh minute from Haaland’s pass and the hosts bombarded Arsenal’s goal before John Stones deservedly doubled their lead with a header in first half stoppage time.

Arsenal, who began the clash five points clear but having drawn three successive games, looked powerless to stop the onslaught and when De Bruyne struck again early in the second half it became a damage-limitation operation for the leaders.

Rob Holding grabbed an 86th-minute consolation but it was too little too late for Mikel Arteta’s side and City now look firm favourites to claim a fifth title in six seasons.

Haaland finally got on the scoresheet in stoppage time for his 49th goal of the season in all competitions — the most by a top-flight player in England since Clive Allen in 1986-87.

City’s seventh successive league win left them with 73 points to Arsenal’s 75, but crucially they have played two fewer games than the Londoners whose hopes of a first title since 2004 now look forlorn after four games without a win.

Guardiola’s City have trailed Arsenal for almost the entire season but will go top if they beat Fulham at the weekend.

“We know what people will say but it’s so hard and a lot of things can happen,” De Bruyne told BT Sport.

“It’s seven games still to go, lots of points, and we are still two points behind Arsenal. Our schedule is hectic, there are a lot of things going on we have to prepare for Sunday.”

A damaging April took the wind out of Arsenal’s sails but a first league win over City since 2015 would have put them put them back in charge of the race.

Unlike against bottom Southampton in Friday’s frenetic 3-3 draw they got through the opening minute without conceding.

But the writing was on the wall as Haaland and De Bruyne began to combine to devastating effect.

Haaland showed great strength to control a high ball and send de Bruyne racing away with a neat pass and the Belgian advanced before nonchalantly curling a shot inside the post.

ARSENAL FRAGILITY

City sensed Arsenal’s fragility and went for the jugular, tearing through the visitors lines at will.

De Bruyne looked poised for a carbon copy of his opener as Arsenal’s high-line defence was again caught out but this time his shot was blocked. Minutes later Ramsdale denied Haaland as the Norwegian bullied his way through more flimsy defending.

Haaland forced another sharp save from Ramsdale before Arsenal finally threatened with Thomas Partey shooting wide.

The onslaught continued though and Haaland thought he had scored only to see his left-footed shot flash wide before yet again forcing a save from Ramsdale.

Had Arsenal reached halftime a goal down it would have felt like a psychological victory, but Stones rose to head in De Bruyne’s lethal delivery in stoppage time.

The goal was initially ruled offside but a VAR check showed Stones was played on by a chunk of Ben White’s foot.

If Arsenal still harboured any hopes of salvaging something they vanished in the 54th minute when Haaland fed De Bruyne for another silky finish past Ramsdale.

“I don’t think they were scared, but the way we started the game, we put ourselves in trouble,” Arteta said. “When you come here you need to be at your best. Today we were far from that.”

Treble-chasing City throttled back and Arsenal gave their fans some cheer when Holding fired in from the edge of the area.

But Haaland had the last laugh as City, who are in the FA Cup final and face Real Madrid in the Champions League semis, made it 28 points from the last 30 on offer.

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