Arsenal 0-2 Manchester City: Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva spoil Unai Emery’s Emirates debut
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
Manchester City beat Arsenal 2-0 at the Emirates in Unai Emery’s first match in charge.
Raheem Sterling fired the visitors ahead on 14 minutes with a curling shot that a static Petr Cech failed to stop before Bernardo Silva doubled the lead on 64 minutes with an excellent left-footed strike to seal their victory.
As was hoped and expected Arsenal came flying out of the blocks against Guardiola’s side. Early forays by Ainsley Maitland-Niles filling in at left-back for Nacho Monreal who is yet to achieve match fitness proved Nigel Winterburn’s assertion that pace in defence is required against City.
A long-term injury to Sead Kolasinac saw Emery place his faith in the 20-year-old starlet who is fast gaining a reputation for versatility.
Another youngster, Matteo Guendouzi, the 19-year-old snapped up from Lorient after starting at PSG’s academy, looked impressive in the opening stages.
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It was good to see the former French U18 midfielder harry such illustrious company such as Sergio Aguero in the heat of battle, showing no respect for their reputations.
Raheem Sterling drilled the ball at Emery’s first choice goalkeeper Petr Cech on nine minutes but the captain for the day in the absence of club leader Laurent Koscielny proved equal to the task, pushing the stinging shot away from his near post.
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Visitors to the club’s training HQ this week at London Colney discerned a sense that the new head coach felt a bedding in period was needed before £25 million signing Bernd Leno before he could challenge for the jersey.
However, there is a fear among many that Cech is not what he was, and his reactions were certainly at fault for Sterling’s goal on 14 minutes.
The England attacker cut in from the left flank, continuing his run to a more central position on the edge of the box before curling in a shot which left the veteran keeper rooted to the spot.
While you could make a case that Cech was slightly unsighted what was worrying was his lack of anticipation in attempting to save, which combined with static footwork meant Guardiola’s side went 1-0 up.
The home side responded after Bellerin drilled a powerful shot at Ederson after dispossessing Aymeric Laporte on 20 minutes as Arsenal pressed high.
The South American sweeper keeper parried emphatically even if the successful high press encouraged the crowd while unsettling the City backline.
On the half hour Granit Xhaka lost the ball as the alert Aguero drove forward only to be brought down by Sokratis, who earned a yellow card on his debut, dished out by the unobtrusive Michael Oliver.
City’s expensive signing from Leicester City, Riyad Mahrez fired in the subsequent low free kick which Cech blocked, before completing a double save by preventing Laporte’s follow-up shot with his feet, in a move reminiscent of Pat Jennings.
Shortly afterwards Maitland-Niles hobbled off to be replaced by new signing Stephan Lichtsteiner.
The lively Mahrez sent a shot narrowly wide moments before half-time with Cech flailing, as City, like a champion prizefighter drew the initial fury from their pumped up challengers before clinically imposing their will on the game.
As Oliver blew for the break Arsenal’s high-intensity pressing style did cause City problems at time, even if Guardiola’s men simply oozed class.
After the break, despite urgent promptings from various pockets of the Arsenal side, City took control, doubling their lead on 64 minutes through Bernardo Silva.
Benjamin Mendy pushed forward down the left flank before squaring for the 24-year-old Portuguese international. There was still much to do with defenders bearing down on him but he showed excellent technique to drill the ball left-footed past Cech’s right hand.
Champions of England, we know what we are, sang the travelling support lustily.
Even on the first day of the season – and at the start of the Emery era at the Emirates - it was hard to argue with them.