MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Nathan Ake scored the winner as Manchester City beat Arsenal 1-0 to progress to the fifth round of the FA Cup on Friday.
City not only knocked out Arsenal from the cup but also earned a psychological advantage in the race for the English Premier League title.
Arsenal has a five-point lead but its seven-game unbeaten run was ended by City, which has three straight wins in all competitions.
England’s two best clubs meet again in a top-of-the-table clash at Emirates Stadium on Feb. 15. For now, City manager Pep Guardiola gained an edge on his former assistant, Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta.
Defender Ake was the unlikely match-winner after curling a low shot past goalkeeper Matt Turner in the 64th minute.
The goal came after substitute Julian Alvarez struck the post with a long-range effort.
Arsenal had chances to take the lead after having the better of the first half, with Takehiro Tomiyasu and Leandro Trossard forcing saves from City goalkeeper Stefan Ortega and Eddie Nketiah firing narrowly wide from close range.
The visitors were made to pay as City improved after the break before Ake’s decisive strike.
While a place in the next round of the cup was at stake, it was impossible to ignore the wider context of a match between the teams who are the front-runners in the league race.
Arsenal has been in outstanding form, picking up 50 points after 19 games and playing with a confidence not seen since Arsene Wenger’s title-winning teams of the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Even if no points were on offer, there was the potential for the winner to make a statement ahead of their looming league encounter.
As if to underline the fact that the cup is neither team’s priority, Guardiola and Arteta left key players out of their lineups.
Guardiola benched Ederson, Kyle Walker, Joao Cancelo and Bernardo Silva.
Arteta left out Aaron Ramsdale, Ben White, William Saliba, Martin Odegaard, Gabriel Martinelli and Oleksandr Zinchenko.
Arsenal’s new signing, Trossard, was given his first start since joining from Brighton last week.
Despite the changes, Arsenal created the better chances in the first half but could not make them count.
City began to control the game after the break without creating many clear-cut openings until Ake broke the deadlock.
Alvarez’s strike from outside the box beat Turner, but came back off the post. Jack Grealish picked up the rebound and laid off to Ake, who hit a first-time effort low into the corner.