Manchester City 2-1 Arsenal: Raheem Sterling strike caps off comeback
By Richard Morgan at the Etihad
Last Updated: 19/12/16 12:02am
Manchester City came from behind to beat Arsenal 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday and move above their opponents in the Premier League standings.
The visitors had deservedly led at the break thanks to Theo Walcott's early strike, only to throw away their advantage for the second match in a row.
Leroy Sane brought City level straight after half-time, before Raheem Sterling won the game with a goal 19 minutes from time.
As a result, the home team have jumped up to second in the table, albeit still seven points behind pace-setters Chelsea, while the Gunners have dropped to fourth.
Arsenal opted to stiffen up their midfield by bringing in Alex Iwobi for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the one alteration from the team that suffered their first away defeat of the season at Everton on Tuesday night.
Meanwhile, City made two changes from the side that beat Watford 2-0 in midweek, Fernando replacing Ilkay Gundogan, who suffered a serious knee injury in that game, and Sane coming in for Nolito.
However, for the first time this season, Pep Guardiola kept the same back five for two league games in a row after their shut-out against the Hornets, meaning John Stones had to once again settle for a place on the substitutes' bench.
That continuity in defence made little difference, though, as Arsenal opened the scoring just five minutes in after a quick-fire move that took just 16 seconds to go from back to front. Petr Cech started the move by rolling the ball out to Hector Bellerin, who strode forward unchallenged into the City half before finding Alexis Sanchez.
The Chile international's brilliant reverse pass then picked out Walcott's run in the box, with the forward making no mistake to score his 11th goal in all competitions this campaign, and his fourth in his last four games against City.
However, that lead was very nearly wiped out within minutes as City worked the ball out wide to Kevin De Bruyne and the Belgian's brilliant cross from the left was somehow headed wide of the gaping goal by Sterling, playing the lone front role in place of the suspended Sergio Aguero.
Incredibly, it took the home team until the final minute of the first half to have their first effort on target, a Yaya Toure header straight at Cech, as the Gunners looked to produce a repeat performance to when they won 2-0 at City in January 2015.
But all the visitors' good work in the first half was soon forgotten when City drew level two minutes after the interval as the Gunners went a 12th game in a row without keeping a clean sheet.
Sterling, who swapped places in attack with De Bruyne at half-time, drove forward with purpose into the Arsenal half, before exchanging passes with David Silva, and the diminutive Spain playmaker's through ball then found Sane running clean through on goal.
The flag stayed down, with Laurent Koscielny deemed to just be playing Sane onside, and the German kept his cool to toe-poke the ball past the advancing Cech for his first-ever goal for City as the home side made the perfect start to the second period.
That strike completely altered the flow of the contest, with City not only quickest to every ball thereafter, but also winning every 50-50 challenge, while Arsenal just could not get out of their own half.
Cech, who had been a virtual spectator before the break, was now being called upon just to keep his side on level terms, with the Czech Republic goalkeeper making impressive stops to keep out first Sane and then De Bruyne as the game entered its final quarter.
Arsene Wenger reacted to the one-way nature of the second half by introducing the pace of Oxlade-Chamberlain for Iwobi, only for his side to soon find themselves behind as Arsenal threw away a lead on the road for the second game in a row.
De Bruyne started the move with a sensational crossfield pass to pick out Sterling on the right flank, although the forward still had much to do as he drove at the retreating Nacho Monreal.
However, as the Spain defender backed off his man, Sterling took full advantage to cut inside, before firing a low shot past Cech at his near post as City's pressure after the break brought its rewards.
City then brought on the Jesus Navas for the tiring Sane and the winger almost made an instant impression after finding De Bruyne from his position on the right flank, only for the Belgium international to beat Cech from a tight angle, but not the post.
But Arsenal, who lost Oxlade-Chamberlain to injury, failed to make City pay for that miss as the home team held on to record what could be a vital win in the race for the title.
Man City: Bravo (6), Kolarov (6), Zabaleta (6), Otamendi (6), Clichy (6), Fernando (7), Sterling (9), De Bruyne (9), Sane (8), Silva (7), Toure (8)
Used subs: Sagna (6), Navas (7), Iheanacho (6)
Arsenal: Cech (6), Bellerin (7), Gabriel (6), Koscielny (6), Monreal (6), Coquelin (6), Xhaka (6), Walcott (7), Ozil (5), Iwobi (6), Sanchez (7)
Use subs: Giroud (6), Oxlade-Chamberlain (6)
Man of the Match: Raheem Sterling