Ake strike sends Man City into fifth round with narrow win over Arsenal
Nathan Ake was the unlikely hero as Manchester City edged past Arsenal into the fifth round of the FA Cup with a 1-0 win at the Etihad Stadium.
The defender popped up with just his second goal of the season, a moment that proved the winner for Pep Guardiola’s charges in a cagey affair between the two best teams in England so far this term.
With just five points separating the sides in the Premier League in what is shaping up to be a fascinating race for the title, their first meeting this campaign never really lived up to its billing.
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Despite making six changes, Mikel Arteta’s side created the better opportunities in the opening half, with Leandro Trossard – making his full debut – causing quite a stir down the left flank. He set the tempo as the early as the ninth minute when he pulled a dangerous cross back to Takehiro Tomiyasu, who forced a save from Stefan Ortega.
The Belgian tested the reactions of City’s deputy goalkeeper before setting up Eddie Nketiah whose first-time near-post finish was wide of target.
City made a slow start to proceedings by their standards but could have gone ahead when Kevin De Bryune’s curler drifted agonisingly wide.
The hosts lost John Stones to injury before half-time but after the restart, in the 64th-minute, his defensive team-mate Ake provided the opener with a side-footed effort after Jack Grealish kept an attack alive following Julian Alvarez’s shot against the post.
And while Arsenal – who brought on captain Martin Odegaard and Gabriel Martinelli – made a positive response to falling behind, they failed to create a clear-cut opportunity as City inflicted just a fourth defeat of the season on the North London side.
Talking point – City inflict psychological blow on Arsenal
With two potentially season defining Premier League games still to come between these two, City have inflicted a psychological blow on their main rivals for the title.
While Arteta will be comforted by the fact he named a much-changed team and for large parts of the game, they matched a strong City XI, Guardiola’s side will be lifted by getting one over on the only side that has outperformed them this season so far. The result means City have now won 14 of their last 17 meetings with Arsenal in all competitions under Guardiola.
If Arsenal are to finally end a 19-year wait for a Premier League trophy, they will have to find a way of improving this dismal record. They will prepare for another showdown with the reigning champions at the Emirates on February 15.
Player of the match – Nathan Ake (Man City)
Not only did the Netherlands international score the game’s only goal, he also kept one of the country’s most in-form players in Bukayo Saka quiet in what was a splendid all-round display.
Nathan Ake battles for the ball with Bukayo Saka
Image credit: Getty Images
Man City: Ortega 6, Lewis 6, Stones 6, Akanji 7, Ake 8*, Gundogan 7, Rodri 6, De Bruyne 6, Grealish 7, Mahrez 5, Haaland 6.. subs: Walker 6, Laporte 7, Alvarez 7, Silva 6.
Arsenal: Turner 6, Tomiyasu 6, Holding 6, Gabriel 7, Tierney 6, Xhaka 6, Partey 6, Vieira 5, Trossard 7, Saka 5, Nketiah 5.. subs: Zinchenko 5, Saliba 6, Lokonga 5, Odegaard 5, Martinelli 5.
21’- TROSSARD GOES CLOSE! And suddenly Arsenal find a higher gear as they transition from defence to attack at a frightening pace. The ball is worked to Trossard on the left side of the penalty area, he arrows a shot at goal and forces a fine one-handed stop from Ortega.
25’ – AGONISINGLY CLOSE! De Bruyne almost makes the breakthrough with a trademark strike! Using Xhaka as a human shield, he curls a devilish shot towards goal and it looks for all the world as if it’s going to nestle in the far corner only for the ball to spin agonisingly wide at the last moment.
33’ – ARSENAL CHANCE! Trossard darts down the left flank again, drives to the by-line and drills a teasing cross to the near post, picking out the run of Nketiah. However, he can’t steer his first-time shot on target.
64′ – GOAL! MAN CITY 1-0 ARSENAL (NATHAN AKE): City have breakthrough! It’s a striker’s finish from defender Ake as he side-foots the ball into the far corner from an angle past Turner from Grealish’s pass. Alvarez had hit the post just moments before!
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