Manchester City scored in stoppage time to sensationally win 2-1 at Arsenal, who had Gabriel Magalhaes sent off during a game-changing and remarkable five minutes of play.
Arsenal took a first-half lead when Bukayo Saka scored his fourth goal in three Premier League games, but they could have been in front earlier had they been awarded a penalty after 10 minutes.
City keeper Ederson appeared to foul Martin Odegaard, but having been checked by VAR, it was decided Edersen had touched the ball and no penalty was given.
The Gunners remained in control of the match until an incredible five minutes of action after half-time.
Bernardo Silva went down in the penalty area under a challenge from Granit Xhaka that was originally waved away by Stuart Attwell but he overturned his decision on the advice of VAR which led to Riyad Mahrez equalising from the spot.
Just 90 seconds later, Nathan Ake made a heroic and unlikely clearance off the line and Gabriel Martinelli somehow failed to score from the rebound. Then the game took another turn when Gabriel Magalhaes picked up a second booking for disrupting a Manchester City counter-attack.
It left Pep Guardiola’s men with 34 minutes to break down the Arsenal 10-men but a goal didn’t look likely until the clock ticked past 90 minutes and Rodri forced home a late winner.
His celebrations in front of the Arsenal end triggered some ugly scenes as bottles were thrown onto the pitch.
The result means City have won 11 games on the spin in the Premier League and puts them 11 points clear of Chelsea, who play Liverpool on Super Sunday.
Arsenal: Ramsdale (7), Tomiyasu (7), White (8), Gabriel (7), Tierney (8), Partey (7), Xhaka (7), Saka (9), Odegaard (7), Martinelli (8), Lacazette (7)
Subs used: Smith Rowe (7), Holding (6), Elneny (6)
Man City: Ederson (7), Cancelo (7), Dias (7), Laporte (7), Ake (7), Rodri (8), De Bruyne (6), Bernardo Silva (7), Mahrez (6), Jesus (6), Sterling (6)
Subs used: Gundogan (6)
Man of the match: Bukakyo Saka
How City smashed and grabbed in a volatile affair…
Both these teams came into the contest with expert records defensively in first halves. Since the Aaron Ramsdale, Ben White and Gabriel axis was formed 16 games ago, Arsenal have not conceded a goal before the 38th minute while Man City had conceded just one first-half goal all season. Those records did not look overly in danger of being added to in a very watchable half but one did not offer much goalmouth action.
Ruben Dias had City’s best moment, flicking a Raheem Sterling cross wide of the post with Ramsdale flapping mid-air whilst Kevin De Bruyne whipped a ferocious effort just past the post on 19 minutes.
In between those chances, Odegaard had what looked a good shout for a penalty when Ederson came racing out to make a tackle at his feet but VAR deemed from the 10 replays shown that he just about got enough of the ball.
Arsenal were standing strong and started to work their attacking transitions to greater effect as the half wore on. It led to the opening goal on 31 minutes.
- Mikel Arteta, who was watching from home after testing positive for Covid, made just one change from the Boxing Day thrashing of Norwich. Takehiro Tomiyasu returning at right-back, meaning Rob Holding missed out.
- Joao Cancelo kept his place in the Manchester City side to face Arsenal despite being assaulted during a burglary at his home. The Portugal full-back suffered facial injuries during the attack on Thursday but stayed in the side as Pep Guardiola makes three changes with City going in search of an 11th consecutive Premier League win. Fernandinho, Phil Foden and Jack Grealish dropped out – with Foden not among the substitutes – as Rodri, Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling started the game.
Kieran Tierney worked himself into space down the left and sent over an intelligent low cross that was met with a swipe of Saka’s left foot that took the ball straight into the corner. It was another example of the game-changing quality the 20-year-old youngster possesses.
Gabriel Martinelli then teased Joao Cancelo down his flank and poked an effort across Ederson that was inches away from giving the Gunners a two-goal cushion at the break.
There was no immediate reaction from City after the break as Arsenal looked well drilled in their shape. Then the game changed on 53 minutes when Silva danced around Xhaka and into the penalty area.
There was a coming-together and a slight pull on the shirt of Silva but initially, Atwell waved it away before being asked to review the incident on the pitchside monitor, where he reversed his decision and awarded the penalty. Tempers flared in the aftermath as the incident was shown on the big screen and Gabriel picked up a yellow card.
Mahrez stroked home the penalty to give City a route back into the match without playing particularly well. It was almost 2-1 to Arsenal moments later but Ake made a miraculous clearance off his goal-line after Aymeric Laporte had headed one over Ederson. How Martinelli missed the rebound from five yards out with the goal gaping will be talked about for years to come at The Emirates.
That wasn’t the end of the mid-half drama as Gabriel was given his marching orders when stopping a City counter in midfield to pick up his second yellow card within 90 seconds.
It was expected that City would lay siege to the Arsenal 10 men in the final quarter but with Xhaka dropping back to centre-back, Arsenal defended their box brilliantly. City failed to trouble Ramsdale with any shots of intent – until the 91st minute when they nicked the game in dramatic fashion.
A ball into the box bobbled into the path of Rodri, who got a toe to the ball to force it past Ramsdale and into the corner. He roared away in celebration towards the Arsenal fans, who responded by throwing multiple bottles in the direction of the City players in an ugly finish to the game.
City left it late, but that’s what champions do.
Analysis: Five minutes of madness cost Arsenal
Sky Sports’ Lewis Jones writes:
Arsenal had just been beaten by Manchester City – nothing new there, of course.
But it was different this time.
The home fans stayed and cheered their team with great gusto, in full appreciation that Mikel Arteta’s team were absolutely superb against the champions-in-waiting. The better side for 85 minutes of the match, in fact.
The problems came in the other five minutes midway through the half. I’m not sure I’ve been at a match where the game has changed so much in such a short space of time. Unfortunately for Arsenal, it was much of their own doing.
Granit Xhaka’s lazy challenge and shirt pull on Bernardo Silva gave the referee a decision to make. Gabriel Martinelli – full of energy and quality – snatched at what was an open goal chance after Nathan Ake’s miraculous clearance off the line. And then Gabriel Magalhaes’ moment of inexperience blotted his copybook when picking up his second yellow card for a needless foul.
Those three incidents defined the result. Elite teams like Man City feast upon such mistakes and although Arsenal were superb in every department, the big moments in the match were gobbled up by the City machine.
“At the end, it’s very frustrating but Mikel was very proud of the performance and at the same time, frustrated,” said Arsenal coach Albert Stuivenberg, who was standing in for the absent Arteta.
Frustration was the perfect word to sum up the feeling in the ground at full-time. But when the dust settles, those Arsenal fans can look back on a performance that gives the club so much hope and excitement for the future.
What the managers said
Arsenal coach Albert Stuivenberg said: “Very frustrated, of course, with the end result. But also very proud of the performance of the players.
“When you end the game playing with 10 players against this City team and don’t concede a lot of chances, the overall performance has been very good.
What about the penalties? “Confusing is the right word. We are looking for consistency there. For me the Odegaard moment is a clear penalty but if there’s any consistency there you’d say, bring the referee over to check. That didn’t happen. And with the City penalty it happens and I thought it was quite soft. But OK, it happened.
“We took the game again after that because we had the opportunity directly to score with Martinelli but it all changed with the red card.”
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola said: “They were better. We faced a team that in the last years struggled to be in the top four and they started the season being in the bottom. And now they’re in the four. They had six, seven days after their last game against Norwich… we had two days and a half and Brentford was so tough. And we didn’t have energy.
“We tried to put one more player in the middle to have more control, and more passes because we know the transitions with Saka, Martinelli, Lacazette, the physicality they have should be difficult and was difficult because we didn’t have anything.
“We tried and tried and in the second half, one minute changed it. The penalty and after the action for the own goal and the sending-off… people will try to analyse many things, but the coin sometimes falls down on your side, sometimes the other side. That’s the reality. In the same time, we know what it means to win here at the Emirates against Arsenal.”
- Man City’s win today means they will end New Year’s Day with an 11-point lead at the top of the Premier League table; in the competition’s history, only Man Utd in 1993-94 and Man City in 2017-18 (both 12 points) had a bigger lead at the end of January 1st in a season.
- Since Mikel Arteta’s first game in charge on Boxing Day in 2019, Arsenal have scored 36 Premier League goals via players aged 21 or younger – eight more than any other team.
- Gabriel’s red card for Arsenal came via two yellow cards in the space of just 78 seconds, while it was also the Gunners’ 100th Premier League sending off, the first team in the competition to reach this total.
- Rodri’s goal, timed at 92:28, is Manchester City’s latest winning goal in a Premier League match since Gabriel Jesus v Southampton in May 2018 (93:01).
Live EFL Cup
Thursday 6th January 7:00pm
Arsenal host Liverpool in the first leg of the Carabao Cup semi-finals live on Sky Sports Football from 7pm on Thursday; kick-off at 7.45pm.
Manchester City’s next game is a trip to League Two Swindon Town in the FA Cup third round on Friday; kick-off at 8pm.