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Manchester City outplay Arsenal 3-0 as Premier League returns; Aston Villa hold Sheffield United

Manchester City’s victory closes the gap on Liverpool at the top and means the Reds cannot secure the Premier League title when they face Everton on Sunday.

SNS | New Delhi |

Manchester City looked at their usual best as they defeated Arsenal 3-0 on the first day of English Premier League’s return at an empty Etihad Stadium on Wednesday after a three-month hiatus due to the global crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Both the teams took a knee to express solidarity to the ongoing anti-racism movement in several parts of the globe.

City’s victory closes the gap on Liverpool at the top to 22 points and means the Reds cannot secure the title when they face Everton in the Merseyside derby on Sunday.

After the initial whistle, Arsenal looked balanced and prepared to fight the competence of City at their own backyard. Xhaka’s early injury in the fifth minute failed to deter the spirit of the Gunners players. However, another injury within next 20 minutes hit them hard.

City lashed on to the opportunities caused due to the absence of two starting players in Arsenal’s defence and scored the opening goal of the night in the stoppage time of the first half.

Kevin de Bruyne found Raheem Sterling with a cross from outside the box which was misjudged by Arsenal’s second substitute David Luiz. Failure from Luiz to guard the ball saw Sterling in a one-on-one situation with goalkeeper Bernd Leno before the English forward launched a ferocious strike into the back of the net.

Five minutes into the second half, Luiz committed his second error of the night. With Riyad Mahrez entering the box unmarked to receive a cross coming in from right-wing, the Brazilian defender fouled the Algerian, earned a red card and awarded the home team a penalty. De Bruyne coolly sent Leno the wrong way to take his team 2-0 up.

“It was not the team’s fault, it was my fault. The coach is amazing, all the players did amazing, it was just my fault,” said Luiz, whose contract is due to expire on June 30.

“I should have taken a different decision in the last two months to try and decide my future as early as possible but I didn’t,” said the defender as he was quoted by PTI via AFP.

The second goal had ended the night’s match as a contest and all the visiting team tried to do in the following minutes was to save themselves from further embarrassment.

However, another serious-looking injury happended and this time the victim was City’s Eric Garica who, too, left the ground on a stretcher after a collision with his own goalkeeper Ederson.

His injury led to a stoppage time of 11 minutes and the defending Premier League champions used it to their advantage with Phil Foden putting the final nail in Arsenal’s coffin with a left-footer.

Gunners’ boss Mikel Arteta had made a bold team selection on his return to the Etihad, where he spent three-and-a-half years as Guardiola’s assistant.

The Spaniard left Alexandre Lacazette and club record signing Nicolas Pepe alongside David Luiz on the bench, while Mesut Ozil did not even make the squad despite a temporary rule change to allow nine substitutes on the bench.

Pep Guardiola, meanwhile, had voiced his concerns for players’ welfare over the lack of preparation time to get up to full fitness.

With PTI inputs