Kevin De Bruyne wasted little time reminding the Premier League his status as its elite playmaker in a 3-0 win over 10-man Arsenal on Wednesday at the Etihad Stadium.
De Bruyne converted a penalty and set up Raheem Sterling for a goal (video), both opportunities aided dramatically by sloppy sub David Luiz.
Phil Foden converted a rebound from a Sergio Aguero shot as part of 11 minutes stoppage after a scary injury late as Ederson clattered into Eric Garcia, who was prone on the field for almost 10 minutes while being tended to by trainers. City played the rest of the match with 10 men after using all five of its subs prior to the injury.
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City’s win means Liverpool cannot win the league versus Everton on Sunday, as City pulls within 22 points of the leaders with nine matches left for each club.
Ninth-place Arsenal stays on 40 points, a point back of Tottenham, five back of fifth-place Manchester United, and eight behind the top four.
The match began with tributes to the National Health Services workers who’ve been battling COVID-19 as well as the Black Lives Matter movement worldwide.
Three things we learned
1. Arteta v. Pep drama stymied by injuries: Injuries to Granit Xhaka and Pablo Mari in the first 24 minutes really hurt our chances of seeing whether Mikel Artet could better plan for old boss Pep Guardiola than most. Already without Lucas Torreira, Arsenal’s midfield took another hit when Xhaka was stretchered off in the 8th minute. Ceballos replaced him, not exactly a huge bummer but a big difference in terms of tactics. Then Mari was injured and replaced by David Luiz, who made two huge errors in the loss.
2. Gunners’ European hopes take a hit in a hurry: Even with eighth-place probably going to Europa League and fifth likely a Champions League spot, Arsenal really wanted to use this match-in-hand to climb above Tottenham and move even with Wolves. Sheffield United’s draw with Villa also opened a door to Arsenal. Arteta will need to remind his players that this one didn’t mean as much as it might appear, with Spurs, Wolves, Blades, and Leicester still on the docket in what you’d deem “European six-pointers.” Still, it doesn’t feel good after months of imagining that Arteta might’ve conjured Arsenal into a better version of itself.
3. De Bruyne furthers Player of the Year case: Just as Liverpool claimed back-to-back PFA Players of the Year when Man City won the league, KDB looks set to enjoy his first and much deserved honor despite Liverpool running away with the silverware. De Bruyne is now three assists shy of equalling Thierry Henry’s PL single season record of 20, and he’s one goal away from joining the select players to hit double-digit goals and assists in a top five European league this season.
The healthy lead allowed Guardiola to sub him off with 20 minutes to play, keeping the Belgian fresh after completing 80 percent of his passes including 7-of-8 longballs, converting all three of his dribbles, and making three interceptions (Sofascore).
Bernd Leno picked up where he left off in tipping a De Bruyne third-minute free kick over the bar.
Xhaka’s injury happened not too long after, and the Swiss international required a stretcher to get off the pitch. Dani Ceballos entered the fray.
New boy Pablo Mari, the ex-Man City man, also needed to be replaced early with David Luiz entering the fray after 24 minutes.
The first half was all Man City if a bit rusty, Raheem Sterling lively but unable to produce an opener until he received help from the opposition.
De Bruyne’s swept in cross bounded off Luiz and onto the path of Sterling, who beat an otherwise strong Leno.
The goalkeeper had little hope early in the second half after Luiz hauled down Riyad Mahrez to earn a red card and send De Bruyne to the spot.