Match report and highlights as sub Martinelli secures late win for Arsenal over Man City; Gunners go level on points with Tottenham at top of Premier League, City in third two points back; Mateo Kovacic fortunate to avoid first-half red
Sunday 8 October 2023 19:17, UK
Gabriel Martinelli stepped off the bench and slammed in a late winner for Arsenal as they beat Premier League title rivals Manchester City 1-0 at a euphoric Emirates Stadium on Sunday.
The brilliant Brazilian winger had missed the last five matches with injury but gave Arsenal added impetus when he came on at half-time - and then grabbed a dramatic clincher with just four minutes of normal time remaining. A perfect moment to score his first league goal of the season.
Kai Havertz set the ball back and Martinelli fired at goal. A deflection off Nathan Ake did for Ederson and secured a first win for Arsenal over Manchester City in the league since December 2015. Their terrible streak in the league against City had seen them lose the last 12 - but could this be a historic victory in the race for this season's crown?
Arsenal - nervy in the early stages - were badly missing injured talisman Bukayo Saka for much of this contest but Martinelli stepped up and delivered a huge blow. "It feels like a big win," said Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta afterwards.
The unbeaten Gunners go into the international break level on points with neighbours Tottenham at the top of the table.
As for Man City, they are just two points back but consecutive league defeats for the first time in five years suggests the treble holders may be more vulnerable than in previous campaigns. They've now lost in both the Community Shield and Premier League to Arsenal and were far from their fluid best here.
Declan Rice had to clear an early Josko Gvardiol shot off the line but City created little else. They will hope to go up a gear when they get injured Kevin De Bruyne and suspended Rodri back.
Arsenal will see the result as justice delivered after Mateo Kovacic somehow avoided a red card in the first-half. He was shown a yellow card for a tackle which saw his studs collide with Martin Odegaard's ankle and then received no further punishment for a similar foul on Declan Rice six minutes later.
That decision seemed set to be the major talking point from a tense afternoon in north London. But Martinelli changed the narrative and fired-up Arsenal's Premier League title dream.
Arsenal: Raya (5); White (7); Saliba (8), Gabriel (8), Zinchenko (6); Rice (8), Odegaard (7), Jorginho (7); Jesus (7), Trossard (6), Nketiah (6)
Subs: Martinelli (9), Partey (6), Havertz (7), Tomiyasu (6)
Man City: Ederson (6), Walker (6), Ake (6), Dias (6), Gvardiol (6), Lewis (7), Kovacic (6), Silva (6), Foden (6), Alvarez (7), Haaland (6).
Subs: Stones (6), Doku (6), Nunes (6)
Player of the match: Gabriel Martinelli (Arsenal)
These two sides have been the great entertainers of recent times but there were just three shots on target between them over the 90 minutes. City managed just four shots in total, the fewest by a Pep Guardiola side in 13 years.
It was cagey. It was anxious. It was on a knife-edge throughout.
The pressure was plain to see early on from the home side, with Arsenal shaky in the opening minutes. Goalkeeper David Raya mis-placed passes. He needed Rice to rescue him when he got caught under a corner and then had a let-off when Julian Alvarez charged his clearance into the side-netting.
The Spaniard - at fault for a Champions League goal conceded in midweek - was nervous and that feeling was transmitted around the stadium.
The fine margins of this contest put even more weight on the controversial moments of the first half, when Kovacic twice survived a sending off.
The past week had been filled with debate and discussion about VAR and match officials and they were back in the spotlight in this huge clash.
Croatian Kovacic caught Odegaard on the ankle with his studs just before the half-hour mark, with a VAR check upholding the yellow card he'd been shown by ref Michael Oliver. Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville labelled it an "orange" and described the challenge as a "bad one".
Just six minutes later, Kovacic made a similar tackle on Rice but Oliver immediately gestured he would not be showing a second yellow for the foul. "He should be off," said Neville. Arteta was incredulous in the Arsenal dugout.
Martinelli, on at half-time for Leandro Trossard, boosted Arsenal. With some forward thrust they were able to get more of a foothold and it was the sub who had their first shot on target 50 minutes in.
Oleksandr Zinchenko shot off target and Gabriel Jesus caused problems coming in off the right. But for all of Arsenal's probing City looked impenetrable. At the other end, the visitors were badly lacking their usual fluidity themselves. A goalless draw beckoned.
But Martinelli - with a big helping hand from the deflection off Ake - stole the show and grabbed maximum points for an Arsenal side who will believe they can go one better than last season now.
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta: "So proud. It was the moment with the right people and the right players. We knew we would have to suffer and we did that. You need a big performance and the crowd too. It feels like a big win.
"I think the way we started we conceded the corner and then we gained some control and in the second half we started really good. We were there and really aggressive. The changes helped as well. The quality they produced in the goal was top.
"City give you a lot of problems and we gave them a lot of issues as well. It is not easy to get out. You need the right timing, the right movement, the right moments. I like the courage.
"You are going to have these hard moments against this team. You have to be direct and manage the emotions and make sure you don't get caught against this team."
Man City boss Pep Guardiola: "We started really well with two or three chances. They started the second half really well with the rhythm. Then it was tight and they got a deflection goal. They won, congratulations to them.
"We tried. We did it. I think from both sides there was not a lot of chances. I think both teams did good high pressing. It was tight and in the end, one action, we lost the game. Ten minutes was like that [Arsenal on top] and after it was equal. We had also our moments but in general it was a tight game. Unfortunately they did it.
"We can lose in Wolves as well. Now we have two defeats in a row and then we have the internationals. Hopefully they come back fit and then we go again. Maybe it is a little bit better to be there and see what we have to do to catch them and then [we will] when we come back. We will come back and continue. We will move forward."
Arsenal face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the league on Saturday October 21 after the international break, live on Sky Sports Premier League from 5pm; kick-off 5.30pm.
Man City host Brighton in the league on Saturday October 21; kick-off 3pm.