- Manchester City beat Arsenal to knock them out of the FA Cup fourth round
- Nathan Ake was Manchester City’s unlikely hero, as his goal secured the win
- City beat Arsenal 1-0
Nathan Ake was Manchester City’s unlikely hero in the fourth round of the FA Cup, scoring a 1-0 victory over Premier League leaders Arsenal.
Mikel Arteta‘s Gunners, who lead the Premier League by five points with a game in hand over champions City, made six changes from the side that beat Manchester United 3-2 last weekend. Still, Takehiro Tomiyasu and full-debutant Leandro Trossard forced fine saves from City’s keeper Stefan Ortega in the home goal before halftime.
Ake’s goal was the unexpected and well-deserved icing on the cake.
How the game unfolded
Kevin De Bruyne curled a sumptuous 25-yard strike wide, but Arsenal’s best chance of the first 45 minutes came when Eddie Nketiah volleyed wide from Trossard’s near-post cross.
Trossard was the Arsenal attack’s first choice, as Ake did an excellent job of shackling the in-form Bukayo Saka. In the sixth minute, the Belgium international cut a ball across the City box, which Tomiyasu hammered goalwards, forcing Ortega into a superb save.
The Arsenal left winger then went it alone, only to find City’s cup goalkeeper up to the task, giving 18-year-old Rico Lewis the most challenging night of his fledgling professional career.
De Bruyne’s near-miraculous performance only served to highlight how insignificant he’d been, especially in comparison to his effervescent compatriot Trossard, who should have had an assist to his name when Nketiah erred.
It was up to Ake to maintain the poise that had eluded the forwards on display, including Erling Haaland, who had a frustrating evening.
Grealish expertly kept the ball alive after Alvarez hit the upright, drawing Tomiyasu and Saka towards him and allowing Ake to finish with unexpected nonchalance.
Arsenal pushed hard to force the replay, which neither manager, Arteta, could have wished for, with substitute Gabriel Martinelli a lively presence who forced Ortega to stay sharp until the end.
It sets the mood for the title battle
Despite finishing on the losing end of the scoreline, Arsenal demonstrated to City that they would not go away from the title race this season. A much-changed team had the upper hand in the first half against what was, for the most part, Guardiola’s first-choice outfield XI at the time. The Gunners’ character shone through once more in their reaction to Ake’s goal. A narrow defeat, but with the ability to focus all energies on the Premier League charge.
Alvarez and Haaland partnership shout
City struggled in the first half, with their usually fluid passing game falling apart. It’s not the first time this has happened since the World Cup. The answer could be found in the man who lifted the trophy last month. While some of Guardiola’s players rely on collective rhythm to help them perform at their best, Alvarez burrows into games, harasses opponents, and jackhammers around until he gets his way. The Argentina star set up the goal and gave the attackers around him new impetus during the game’s decisive phase.