Raheem Sterling seals narrow victory for Manchester City over Arsenal
Sterling was ruled out of England’s games against Wales, Belgium and Denmark with a hamstring injury but was back in action to score decisively midway through the first half at the Etihad Stadium.
Arsenal, led by Pep Guardiola’s former assistant Mikel Arteta, beat City in last season’s FA Cup semi-final
and again asked plenty of questions of their hosts, for whom goalkeeper Ederson excelled.
But Guardiola’s side held on for a timely triumph after taking a solitary point from encounters with Leicester City and Leeds United before the international break.
Riyad Mahrez, stationed on the right of a fluid City attack, was prominently involved in the opening exchanges – firing wide inside the opening minute before digging out a cross for the returning Sergio Aguero to head over.
The former Leicester City favourite’s astute in-field pass released Aguero to run at the Arsenal defence in the 23rd minute, with Phil Foden’s resulting shot saved by Bernd Leno and tucked home on the rebound by Sterling.
It was a game to busy both goalkeepers, with Ederson springing into action when Saka and then Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang burst into the City box.
Guardiola sent on Ilkay Gundogan, returning after a positive coronavirus test, in place of Aguero in an attempt to shore up midfield with Arsenal in the ascendancy after the break.
Nevertheless, free-kicks from David Luiz and Nicolas Pepe that did not trouble Ederson were the closest they came.
On an increasingly rare foray forward, City wing-back Joao Cancelo almost forced David Luiz to prod into his own net. In the end, Sterling’s solitary strike would prove enough.