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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
George Flood

Man City 1-0 Arsenal: Nathan Ake goal settles heavyweight FA Cup showdown between title rivals

Match-winner: Nathan Ake’s second goal of the season saw off Arsenal in the FA Cup on Friday

(Picture: Getty Images)

Manchester City drew first blood in their season-long battle with Arsenal after winning a tense FA Cup showdown between the Premier League title rivals.

Nathan Ake’s expert second-half finish settled a heavyweight Friday night tie under the lights at the Etihad Stadium and booked City’s place in the fifth round, also dealing a psychological blow to the Gunners - who suffered only their fourth defeat of the season - ahead of a pivotal first top-flight meeting between the clubs in north London on February 15.

City - showing just two changes from their win over Wolves as Arsenal swapped six - had more possession in the first half but looked off the pace aside from a Kevin De Bruyne curler that whistled narrowly beyond the far post, with Erling Haaland being shackled by the physical Rob Holding, who had to be withdrawn at half-time and replaced by William Saliba after being cautioned in his running battle with the Norwegian goal machine.

Thomas Partey also took a knock to the ribs and made way for Albert Sambi Lokonga before the second period got underway.

The best chances of the opening 45 minutes unquestionably fell to Arsenal, with Leandro Trossard thriving on his full debut and he and Takehiro Tomiyasu both forcing strong saves from Ederson’s understudy Stefan Ortega, with Eddie Nketiah also steering a Trossard cross wide of the front post.

City took control after the interval, with Arsenal’s second-choice goalkeeper Matt Turner twice called into action to repel dangerous De Bruyne crosses, hurting his shoulder in the process. Young right-back Rico Lewis also drove into the side netting.

The deadlock was broken 25 minutes from time, when Ake expertly passed an effort beyond Saliba and Turner and into the back of the net after Jack Grealish had doggedly kept the attack alive after substitute Julian Alvarez had smashed the post with an effort from outside the box.

Arsenal had a great chance to immediately equalise, but Nketiah was denied a close-range finish by some expert Aymeric Laporte defending. The Spaniard was summoned before half-time after England’s John Stones suffered another hamstring injury.

Arteta called for Gabriel Martinelli, captain Martin Odegaard and Oleksandr Zinchenko in a rescue effort, with the Brazilian causing all sorts of issues in the dying minutes with his pace and trickery.

However, they huffed and puffed but could not find the goal to force a replay as attention quickly turns back to that enthralling title race.

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