Manchester City beat EPL title rivals Arsenal in tight FA Cup affair
But this match will have no bearing on the final standings in England's top flight. The fixture acted as a dress rehearsal for the teams' much-anticipated Premier League scuffles on Feb. 15 and April 26 as Nathan Ake's cool finish earned City a place in the FA Cup fifth round.
Considering Mikel Arteta made plenty of changes to his regular lineup, including starting Rob Holding and Matt Turner, there was plenty for Arsenal fans to be positive about as their side sized itself up against the reigning Premier League champions.
Manchester City's backup goalkeeper Stefan Ortega Moreno produced good saves to deny Takehiro Tomiyasu and Leandro Trossard during the first half. From a defensive standpoint, Erling Haaland was restricted to one shot on target - a hopeful overhead kick from outside the box - despite Holding's clear struggles while dealing with the Norwegian hitman.
The winning goal came from an unlikely source: Substitute Julian Alvarez smashed a shot off the post from around 25 yards before Jack Grealish collected the rebound, twisting and turning before spotting a viable passing option in Ake, who calmly side-footed the ball past Turner.
Arsenal came closest to a leveler just moments after the defender's goal when Aymeric Laporte heroically poked the ball out for a corner and away from Eddie Nketiah's outstretched leg. The Gunners couldn't carve out a better opportunity despite introducing Gabriel Martinelli, Oleksandr Zinchenko, and Martin Odegaard following Ake's tally.
"I thought we deserved to win," Ake said post-match, according to The Guardian's Rob Smyth. "We were better in the second half, but it was tough - they press very high, and it was hard to play out. We had to use Erling more."
"There's still more to come from the team," he added. "Today was more about resilience; we stayed strong and made sure we didn't concede."
The FA Cup fifth-round draw will be conducted on Monday.
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