City regain lead as Arsenal rekindle Champions League dreams
MANCHESTER: Manchester City regained their one-point lead at the top of the Premier League with a 3-0 win over Brighton and Hove Albion while Arsenal revived their push for the top four with a 4-2 upset of London rivals Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
Liverpool had stormed to the top of the table by tearing Manchester United to shreds in a 4-0 win at Anfield on Tuesday, meaning City could ill afford a slip-up at home to Graham Potter’s side.
City were not so sparkling, but held their nerve to edge back one point ahead in the title race, with 77 from 32 games, thanks to second-half goals from Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva.
“We are facing one of the best teams ever,” said City boss Pep Guardiola at going head-to-head with Liverpool. “If we drop points they will be champions, if we win all our games we will be champions.”
Pep Guardiola’s team struggled to break down a well-organised Brighton defence in the opening 45 minutes but broke the deadlock through Algerian forward Mahrez in the 53rd minute.
Kevin De Bruyne burst forward from inside his own half, brushing off three challengers, before finding Mahrez who converted at the second attempt.
That opener settled City’s nerves with the hosts scoring a second 12 minutes later as Foden’s shot from a well-worked corner was helped past Brighton goalkeeper Robert Sanchez by a deflection.
Silva then sealed the points with a sumptuous finish from De Bruyne’s lay-off.
Arsenal’s victory, with two goals from Eddie Nketiah was a major boost in their bid to qualify for the Champions League via a top-four finish.
The win moves the Gunners level on 57 points with fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur with both teams having played 32 matches and set to meet at Spurs on May 12.
“It’s a great night and the players deserve it,” said Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta.“It has been a tough two weeks but you have to bounce back and show spirit.”
Scoring goals has been a problem for Arteta’s men since the departure of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but Nketiah took his chance with a rare start to score his first Premier League goals in over a year.
The all-time record goalscorer for England’s under-21s pounced on on a weak back pass by Andreas Christensen to slot the opener past Edouard Mendy in the 13th minute.
Chelsea took just four minutes to equalise as Timo Werner’s deflected shot caught Aaron Ramsdale napping at his near post.
Emile Smith Rowe put the Gunners back in front with a cool finish at the end of a glorious Arsenal move that started with Granit Xhaka dribbling out of his own boxin the 27th.
Again, though, Arsenal were pegged back as Cesar Azpilicueta steered home Mason Mount’s cross.
There was a reduced crowd at Stamford Bridge for the first time since restrictions placed on the club prevented them from selling tickets not purchased prior to UK government sanctions imposed on owner Roman Abramovich.
However, Arsenal were able to sell out the full away allocation and the visiting fans were jubilant when Nketiah took advantage of more shoddy Chelsea defending from Malang Sarr to put his side ahead for a third time.
Bukayo Saka then sealed the win with a stoppage-time penalty after he had been brought down by Azpilicueta.
Chelsea stayed in third place on 62 points having played a game less than both Spurs and Arsenal.
At the bottom end of the table, Everton needed a stoppage-time equaliser from Richarlison to scrape a point at home to Leicester City and move four points clear of the relegation zone.
Harvey Barnes put the visitors in front in the fifth minute, poking home a pass from James Maddison from close range as Everton struggled to find their feet, and the home side did not register a shot on target in the first half.
Richarlison finally forced a save from Kasper Schmeichel in the 67th minute but he wasted several good chances before redeeming himself with a scuffed shot in the second minute of stoppage time at the end of the game to grab a point.
Everton are four points clear of 18th-placed Burnley with both teams having seven games to go.
Newcastle were also fretting about relegation at the turn of the year, but Eddie Howe’s Magpies are up to 11th after a sixth consecutive home win.
Miguel Almiron scored the only goal at St. James’ Park — his first for the club in over a year — to round off a disappointing week for Crystal Palace after their FA Cup semi-final exit to Chelsea.
Published in Dawn, April 22nd, 2022