Raheem Sterling's second-minute header was enough to beat Arsenal and give Manchester City an 18th consecutive victory, a run that includes 13 in the Premier League.
City came out of the blocks in a blistering fashion with Riyad Mahrez toying with Arsenal on the right flank and centring for the diminutive forward to flick a header into the corner of the net.
After a first 10 minutes when City could have been three goals up, with Sterling having two more chances and Mahrez a shot deflected wide, there were few clear opportunities for either side with the result seemingly a foregone conclusion long from the end of the game despite the narrow margin.
The win is City's eighth consecutive league success against Arsenal and keeps them 10 points clear at the top of the table.
Sterling scores the only goal
Image credit: Getty Images
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There were times in this match where it looked like a low-energy training session with a senior team playing keep ball against a demoralised junior side. Of course the lack of fans in the ground plays a part in this, but it speaks to the mentality of both sides as well.
Arsenal never looked like they believed they could beat City, despite their two good results in the preceding week, and it is to their detriment that when it was clear City were not at their dangerous best in the second half they did not show desperation in attack. City meanwhile, barring the exhilarating first 10 minutes, were the personification of Pep Guardiola’s clothing, like his hoody and tracksuit bottoms they were comfortable and functional, if lacklustre.
With the league all but won, it is easy to foresee similar games in the final three months of the season. They will certainly have to step up when they play in the Champion’s League, beginning with Borussia Monchengladbach on Wednesday. It shouldn’t be a problem against this German opposition but if they face a Bayern Munich or PSG they will have to raise their game many levels.
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MAN OF THE MATCH - Ruben Dias (Man City)
He and John Stones will have more difficult opponents in the rest of the season but on paper Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang coming into the game on the back of a hat-trick in his last Premier League game should have provided a challenge. Instead, City's control of the game and the way the centre back pairing dealt with any apparent danger in imperious fashion took the will out of the Arsenal skipper and his fellow forwards.
Dias was also prepared to bring the ball out of defence to give City momentum, especially early in the second half, when the attacking players in front of him were lacking the zest to create themselves. At just 23, he looks like the complete central defender and even at £60 million looks like one of the signings of the season.
Arsenal: Leno 6, Bellerin 5, Holding 7, Mari 6, Tierney 6, Elneny 6, Xhaka 6, Saka 6, Odegaard 5, Pepe 5, Aubameyang 5. Subs: Rowe 6, Lacazette 6, Luiz 6 Ceballos 6.
Man City: Ederson 6, Cancelo 7, Dias 8*, Stones 7, Zinchenko 7, Fernandinho 7, Gundogan 6, Bernardo 6, Mahrez 7, De Bruyne 7, Sterling 7. Subs: Jesus 7.
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2' - GOAL! Arsenal 0-1 City (Sterling): You can't say they weren't warned. Mahrez crossed again from the right wing and Sterling this time in the centre of the goal leaped high and flicked perfectly just inside the post.
6' - CHANCE! Sterling had to score there. He tried to do what Minamino did for Southampton yesterday after De Bruyne played him in with a wonderful through ball but after turning inside Bellerin he lost control and Leno was able to claim.
8' - AND ANOTHER! Mahrez close to scoring. The ex-Leicester flanker turning inside Mari and then his effort deflects wide off the inside of Tierney's leg.
80' - SHOULD SCORE! Jesus gets the ball behind the Arsenal defence and plays inside to Cancelo who turns inside beautifully before curling with his outside of his right foot just wide of the far post.