EPL title race ramps up as City fire warning shot, Arsenal go top

    Phil Foden shone in the absence of Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne as the England international’s hat-trick handed Manchester City a thumping 4-1 win over Aston Villa.

    The champions responded emphatically to questions over their ability to win the biggest games to move to within one point of leaders Arsenal at the top of the Premier League.

    City had not beaten a side in the Premier League’s top five in six attempts this season prior to the visit of fourth-placed Villa to the Etihad.

    Watch selected NRL & AFL games, along with every F1 race live in 4K on Kayo. New to Kayo? Start Your Free Trial today

    Phil Foden celebrates after scoring. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP)Source: AFP

    But Pep Guardiola showed faith in the depth of his squad by leaving Haaland and De Bruyne on the bench for the full 90 minutes ahead of a hectic schedule in their defence of three competitions.

    Guardiola has hailed Foden as the best player in the English top-flight this season and the 23-year-old backed up his manager’s words by taking his goal tally for the season to 21.

    City were beaten 1-0 by Villa when the sides met in December, but that was their last defeat as Guardiola’s men are now unbeaten in 24 games.

    Jeremy Doku was one of those to return to the City side among four changes and the Belgian rewarded his manager with his brightest display in a City shirt for months.

    Doku was the creator for the opener as he skipped past Lucas Digne and his cross was swept high past Villa’s stand-in goalkeeper Robin Olsen by Rodri.

    Villa’s normal number one Emiliano Martinez was just one of a host of key absences for the visitors.

    Top scorer Ollie Watkins was sidelined by injury, while captain John McGinn was suspended.

    Pau Torres, Youri Tielemans and Leon Bailey were also left on the bench by Unai Emery as the Spaniard appeared to prioritise his side’s upcoming games as more realistic bets to get the points they need to secure Champions League football.

    Douglas Luiz reacts following a missed chance. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

    However, Jhon Duran showed he is an able deputy to Watkins as the Colombian swept home a fine equaliser after exchanging a one-two with Morgan Rogers.

    By contrast, Julian Alvarez failed to take his chance to shine in his preferred position with Haaland rested.

    The Argentine World Cup winner was denied by Olsen from a narrow angle and then saw a header tipped over by the Swedish goalkeeper.

    However, City did restore their lead before half-time to calm the rising tension among the Etihad crowd thanks to Foden’s first.

    His free-kick sneaked through a hole in the Villa wall caused by Nicolo Zaniolo jumping out of position to leave Olsen unsighted.

    City’s number two ‘keeper Stefan Ortega is enjoying a rare run in the side due to Ederson’s thigh injury.

    And the German was needed to make a vital save after the break to deny Villa levelling for a second time through Douglas Luiz.

    Manchester City made a statement. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

    Foden made the points safe when he swept in Rodri’s pass off the inside of the post.

    And he completed his hat-trick in style by blasting into the top corner from outside the box.

    Liverpool can retake top spot when they host bottom-of-the-table Sheffield United on Thursday.

    But City will be quietly confident of becoming the first side to ever win four consecutive English top-flight titles with the worst of their run-in now cleared.

    Guardiola’s men have just one more match against a top-six opponent, away to Tottenham, in their final eight games of the season.

    Defeat leaves Villa still just two points above Spurs in the race for a top-four finish, having played a game more.


    Elsewhere, Arsenal coasted to a 2-0 win over struggling Luton to dislodge Liverpool from the top of the Premier League table, once again edging ahead in a thrilling three-way title tussle.

    Gunners captain Martin Odegaard opened the scoring midway through the first half and an own goal just before the break gave the much-changed home side a cushion.

    The result lifts Arsenal to 68 points — one ahead of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, who host bottom side Sheffield United on Friday.

    “We want to be at the top — winning our games is the only thing we can do,” Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta told the BBC.

    “We managed to rotate and freshen the team up a bit,” he added.

    “Those who came in did really, really well.”

    Arsenal went top with the win. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

    Arteta’s men, with top-scorer Bukayo Saka absent, dominated possession in the opening stages at the Emirates but created few clear-cut openings in front of an expectant crowd.

    But they broke the deadlock in the 24th minute, courtesy of a sweet left-footed strike by Odegaard.

    Emile Smith Rowe, who has been a peripheral figure this season, dispossessed the dawdling Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu inside the visitors’ half.

    He fed Odegaard, who played a one-two with Kai Havertz before stroking the ball home for his 10th goal of the season.

    Arsenal doubled their lead in the 44th minute thanks to an own goal from Luton defender Daiki Hashioka, who turned into his own net following more good work down the left by Smith Rowe.

    The home side, playing in second gear, had just three shots on target in the first half but were well worth their lead.

    The bulk of the second half was flat, although Luton came into the game more, probing for an opening to haul themselves back into the contest.

    Arteta brought on midfielder Declan Rice and forward Eddie Nketiah, introducing Gabriel Martinelli with 15 minutes to play.

    Martin Odegaard celebrates scoring Arsenal’s first goal. (Photo by Eddie Keogh/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

    Arsenal substitute Takehiro Tomiyasu went close, bending one just wide, and Nketiah forced a save from the scrambling Thomas Kaminski in the closing minutes.

    They were unable to score a third but saw the game out with few alarms. The Gunners, who have not been crowned English champions since 2004, set the pace for the bulk of last season before flagging as the finishing line approached.

    But, adding steel to their style, they have now won nine of their past 10 league games, with the only blip in that sequence a goalless draw against City on Sunday.

    Arsenal, who have conceded just four goals in the league in 2024, travel to Brighton on Sunday before hosting Villa on April 14.

    In between those matches they welcome Bayern Munich in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final.

    Defeat for depleted Luton leaves Rob Edwards’ side third from bottom of the English top flight, three points from safety, and facing an immediate return to the Championship.

    Brentford drew 0-0 with Brighton to edge further clear of the drop zone.

    Source link

    Related articles



    Please enter your comment!
    Please enter your name here

    Share article

    Latest articles


    Subscribe to stay updated.