Sterling strikes early as leaders Man City sink Arsenal
Manchester City moved a step closer to the Premier League title as Raheem Sterling’s early goal gave the runaway leaders a 1-0 win against Arsenal on Sunday.
Pep Guardiola’s side made it 18 successive victories in all competitions thanks to Sterling’s second-minute header at the Emirates Stadium.
With 13 games left, City are 10 points clear of second-placed Leicester, who had closed the gap to seven with a 2-1 win at Aston Villa earlier on Sunday.
City have equalled the club record of 11 successive away victories in all competitions, set from May to November 2017.
They are the first top-flight team to win their opening 11 league matches in a calendar year.
Storming towards a third title in four seasons, City have won 13 consecutive league matches and are unbeaten in 25 games in all competitions since a defeat at Tottenham in November.
Incredibly, that was the last time they trailed in any league fixture.
Guardiola’s men weren’t even at their best on their return to north London, but they still had enough in the locker to hand Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal a third defeat in their last four league games.
“It was hard like we expected it would be. We suffered a lot. It’s difficult to play against Arsenal and Mikel. That’s why I give the players incredible credit for this victory,” Guardiola said.
“People look at our run of wins and think it’s so easy. I didn’t expect it. I’m more than grateful for these players for what they’re doing, but winning these games 1-0 is what we need to do.
“The last 10-15 minutes was brilliant. We know what we want to do. We want to make a big step.”
Borussia Monchengladbach have the next chance to stop City’s incredible winning streak in the Champions League last-16 first leg on Wednesday.
If anyone would have the secret to stopping City’s march to the title, it might have been Gunners boss Arteta.
The Spaniard served as Guardiola’s City assistant before taking charge of Arsenal last season.
But Arteta had to make changes as several of his players were fatigued after their midweek Europa League draw against Benfica.
“When we conceded the first goal it put us in a difficult situation. It was tough. With the formation and the players they use they are really comfortable,” Arteta said.
“After that the team reacted really well, were on top of the game and created chances but we lacked the quality in those situations to score the goal.”
City ruthlessly pounced on the uncertainty in Arsenal’s reshuffled line-up as they took the lead after just 80 seconds.
Ruben Dias played a superb long pass to Riyad Mahrez and the Algeria winger lofted a cross into the six-yard box, where Sterling defied his diminutive stature as he rose above Rob Holding to head into the far corner.
Sterling’s 13th club goal of the season was his sixth in his last nine appearances.
He should have had another moments later when Kevin De Bruyne’s pass split the Arsenal defence, but this time Sterling delayed his shot and Bernd Leno was able to save at the forward’s feet.
Mahrez was tormenting Arsenal left-back Kieran Tierney and he danced past him for a shot that deflected wide.
City’s De Bruyne was making his first start for over a month after a hamstring injury.
The Belgium midfielder, who came off the bench in the win at Everton in midweek, tried to pick out Ilkay Gundogan but his errant pass betrayed a little rustiness.
City nearly conceded against the run of play when Tierney’s volley forced a good save from Ederson.
They regained their momentum at the start of the second half and De Bruyne was just wide with an audacious chip from the edge of the area.
Leno had to save well from Gundogan’s 20-yard drive before De Bruyne’s volley whistled wide.
Joao Cancelo nearly gifted Arsenal an equaliser when his high backpass was volleyed straight to Mohamed Elneny by Ederson, but the midfielder blazed just wide.