City and Arsenal shared the Premier League spoils as the two title contenders fought out a combative goalless Easter Sunday draw at the Etihad.

In what was a tense, feisty affair, chances proved at a premium at both ends of the field as for the first time in 58 games City were denied a goal on home soil.

Nathan Ake and Mateo Kovacic both went close for City whilst former Blue Gabriel Jesus and sub Leandro Trossard threatened for the visitors.

In the end though, the two were forced to settle for a point with Liverpool emerging as new leaders after their earlier 2-1 win at home to Brighton.

What happened

Pep Guardiola and Rodrigo had both urged the City faithful to bring the noise ahead of kick-off and the fans answered the clarion call and then some.

It was a raucous and fever pitch atmosphere that greeted the two heavyweight contenders in front of 53,533  fans as one of the most eagerly awaited contests of the season got underway amidst perfect conditions in East Manchester.

FORWARD MARCH: Erling Haaland takes the fight to Arsenal.
FORWARD MARCH: Erling Haaland takes the fight to Arsenal.

And as expected between the pre-match leaders and third placed City, it was high octane, high calibre fare with the early stages played at a breakneck speed.

It was City who immediately settled into our stride, seeking to take the game to the visitors at every early opportunity.

That said it was the Gunners with the first meaningful forward foray, Ben White overlapping on the right flank and finding former City star Gabriel Jesus lurking at the far post.

Fortunately, the Brazilian’s instinctive shot was the wrong side of Stefan Ortega’s near post.

City then carved out an excellent opportunity via another cleverly constructed set piece.

Kevin De Bruyne’s whipped 16th minute corner was met by Nathan Ake’s first-time header and Gunners keeper David Raya was grateful that the Dutchman’s close range header was arrowed straight at him.

MIDDLE MAN: Mateo Kovacic sizes up the options.
MIDDLE MAN: Mateo Kovacic sizes up the options.

Within 10 minutes Ake was sadly forced off with what looked like a issue affecting his calf, Rico Lewis being drafted on in his place and reverting to right back with Manuel Akanji switched to central defence.

Referee Anthony Taylor was also a pivotal figure in a combative first half hour with a series of physical, aggressive Arsenal challenges further raising the temperature but no card produced.

Another quickfire Arsenal counter on 31 minutes again saw the advancing White tease a dangerous ball into the City box, Jesus eventually finding space and firing a low effort that this time evaded the right hand upright.

But with both defences holding firm and so much at stake, chances and space generally proved at a premium in a tense first 45 minutes.

With the contest on a knife edge, City almost got the second half off to the perfect start as Mateo Kovacic curled a neat 20-yard effort agonisingly wide of the Arsenal goal.

NO ENTRY: Josko Gvardiol stops Bukayo Saka in his tracks.
NO ENTRY: Josko Gvardiol stops Bukayo Saka in his tracks.

There was then a huge scare the other end as Saka for once evade the City backline and pinged in a lethal low level ball into the heart of the box which Jesus was an ace away from meeting.

Pep Guardiola then opted to make a twin change on the hour, bringing on both Jack Grealish and Jeremy Doku for Kovacic and Phil Foden as we sought that crucial breakthrough.

The two subs almost combined to prise open the door on 82 minutes only for Doku to miscue after being found waiting at the far post by Grealish.

As both sides went for the win, Erling Haaland then couldn’t control the ball as an inviting opening beckoned from another dangerous De Bruyne corner.

Ortega Moreno then had to be alert to deny Gunners sub Leandro Trossard.

In the end though it wasn’t to be for either side as the points were shared out.

THE BOSS: Pep Guardiola gets his point across.
THE BOSS: Pep Guardiola gets his point across.

How we lined up

CITY XI: Ortega Moreno, Akanji, Dias, Ake (Lewis 25), Gvardiol, Rodri, Kovacic (Doku 60), De Bruyne (C), Bernardo, Foden (Grealish 60), Haaland

Subs: Carson, Stones, Alvarez, Gomez, Nunes, Bobb

ARSENAL XI: Raya, White, Saliba, Gabriel, Kiwior (Tomiyasu 65), Rice, Jorginho (Partey 65), Odegaard, Saka (Martinelli 78), Jesus (Trossard 71), Havertz

Subs: Ramsdale, Zinchenko, Vieira, Smith Rowe, Nketiah

Stat zone

This was City’s first goalless draw since a 0-0 Champions League tie away at Borussia Dortmund in October 2022.

Our last Premier League goalless stalemate came at Crystal Palace in March 2022.

The previous Etihad shut out was a Champions League last 16 second leg draw at home to Sporting in March 2022.

The last time we failed to score in the league was a 2-0 reverse at home to Crystal Palace in October 2021.

KEEPING THE FAITH: Stefan Ortega Moreno
KEEPING THE FAITH: Stefan Ortega Moreno

Man of the match

It’s fair to that Josko Gvardiol hasn’t always received the attention that his contributions have merited so far during his debut season at City.

However, it was impossible to overstate how impressive the Croatian was against the Gunners.

Pitted against Bukayo Saka, he kept the Arsenal dangerman ona  tight leash.

And going forward Gvardiol offered an extra dimension to City’s attack and was a constant source of inspiration.

A superb all-round display.

ACTION MAN: Phil Foden on the attack
ACTION MAN: Phil Foden on the attack

What it means

Liverpool are the new Premier League leaders, sitting top on 67 points.

Arsenal lie second with 65 points with City third on 64 points.

All three teams have played 29 games with everything still to play for.

Pep’s reaction

“I’d prefer to win but we’ll take the point. It was a hard game.

“Rico, Manu, Rodri were exceptional. The chances they have in first half, the press really well.

“Arsenal score many and concede few. They defend really well but we tried. I recognise the intention we had.

“We take the point and in nine games we see what happens.

“We will refresh mind and legs and go into Aston Villa on Wednesday.”

BERNARDO’S reaction

“Last April they went man to man for the whole game and when you do that is a bit of a fifty- fifty. Today it was a different [Arsenal] team, more experience.

“They have young players that are now one year more experienced. They felt what it was to play here last season and today they were much better.”

“A lot can happen [in the title race].

“Now we don’t depend on ourselves, we depend on Liverpool and Arsenal now because we don’t play against them again, so we need them to drop points as well as do our job and win our own games.”


SUPER SUB: Rico Lewis in the thick of the action.
SUPER SUB: Rico Lewis in the thick of the action.

What’s next

City are back in Premier League action at the Etihad on Wednesday night when we play host to Aston Villa in another key encounter.

Kick-off is slated for 20.15pm (UK).

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