Man City cruise into semis after Alex Runarsson howler sparks Arsenal collapse

Phil Foden celebrates during the victory

And, to be fair, because Arsenal’s recent record in cups is pretty good. It was this City side they beat in last year’s FA Cup semi-final as they won the whole thing. And as patchy as their league form is, they saw off the current top two – Liverpool and Leicester City – to get to this point. But it did not take long for confirmation that teams in disarray rarely happen upon glory on a whim.  

As Arsenal backed off during City’s attack, left-back Oleksandr Zinchenko was given ample room by Cedric Soares to line-up a cross and ample time to double-check it, before finding Jesus, who had nipped in front of Runarsson to head City into the lead.

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Just like that, Arteta’s low block was breached at the first attempt, and the threat of more felt inevitable as Jesus, Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez and Bernardo Silva buzzed around in the final third knowing there was more where that first one came from. Even Arsenal seemed resigned to that, and in lieu of any of the ball, Shrodan Mustafi and Mohammed Elneny took a couple of chunks out of Jesus for a yellow card each.

But that second goal, when it did arrive, came at the other end via the endeavour of Martinelli. The Brazilian has not been a part of the current season of discontent and in many quarters is seen as the antidote for the current issues in front of goal. And though Arteta urged fans to temper their expectations of how much to expect from a 19-year old whose 10 goals last season spoke of a bright future and an equally bright present, his work on the left with 31 minutes on the clock gave them reason to lose themselves. Fed by Ceballos, he took the ball to the byline and stood up a cross that Lacazette, captain for the evening with Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang still out with his calf injury, was able to guide into the top corner with a well-fashioned diving header for 1-1.

Gabriel Jesus opens the scoring for Man City

It sparked Arsenal into life, both on and off the ball. Suddenly those spaces for City grew smaller: not just in front of the opponents’ box, but theirs, too. That being said, the visitors had a chance to take a lead into half-time when Jesus had a chance to finish in space from eight yards out but could not beat the right arm of Runarsson.

Despite fighting their way back, Arsenal would end the first-half on a low. Martinelli, sprung through over the top, came worse off in a 50-50 challenge with City goalkeeper Zack Steffen, who was quick off his line and spot on with his tackle. Unfortunately, Martinelli’s ankle was caught in the cross-fire. Though he was able to play the remainder of the half and walk off – blood visible from the white of his sock – a return after the break proved optimistic and he was quickly replaced by Nicholas Pepe.

It would be melodramatic to say hope of an Arsenal win went off with him, but things only went one way from then on. Mahrez, fouled on the edge of the box, dusted himself down and whipped the ball to Runarsson’s side of the goal with no real malice. It might have hit the goalkeeper in the face had his hands not been in position to fumble.

Not long after he was rashly closing down Foden who lifted over him with ease. The star of the move, though, was Fernandinho, carrying the ball from his defence into opposition territory, playing a give-and-go with Joao Cancelo on the left and then sliding in the 20-year-old.

Foden would pass on the favour with an assist of his own, nailing a short-corner routine and crossing to the back post for Laporte to score from just a few yards out. They could have scored more if there was any need.

City will find out their semi-final opponents on Wednesday evening in a draw that will feature Brentford and the winners of Stoke City-Tottenham Hotspur and Everton-Manchester United. Arsenal, meanwhile, set their gazes on Boxing Day and a meeting with Chelsea. Another “must-win” game after another chastening defeat. 

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