MANCHESTER, United Kingdom, Jun 17 – David Luiz had a Premier League re-start to forget after coming on as a first half substitute, his two errors playing part in Arsenal’s 3-0 loss to Manchester City in the second game of the English Premier League return at the Etihad on Wednesday.
Luiz who came on for the injured Pablo Mari after 24 minutes was at fault for City’s opener while he was also fully responsible for the home side’s second when he pulled down Riyad Mahrez in the box in the second half, resulting in a penalty for the Cityzens and a red card for the Brazilian.
It was an unpleasant return to Manchester for Mikel Arteta as he saw his side downed by a dominant city, partly thanks to misfortune that saw him make two injury-enforced substitutions within the opening 24 minutes.
Raheem Sterling scored the opener with a thumping finish inside the box just before the break while Kevin de Bruyne doubled City’s tally with a second half penalty after Luiz pulled down Mahrez inside the box.
Phil Foden capped the evening for Pep Guardiola’s men with the third in added time with Arsenal caught in shambles all over again.
The game had an unfortunate end though when young Spanish defender Eric Garcia, in just his third start of the Premier League had to be stretchered off after a bloodied collusion with his keeper Ederson.
Both sets of players came together before kick-off to take a knee in protest of racial injustice, as had Aston Villa and Sheffield United players in the first match of the Premier League’s ‘Project Restart’ after a 100-day stoppage due to coroanvirus.
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.
– Arteta’s plan undone –
A minute’s silence before kick-off remembered those to have lost their lives to COVID-19, including City boss Guardiola’s mother.
Black Lives Matter was also emblazoned on the back of shirts where the stars names are normally printed, as the players took a knee around the centre circle.
There was little return to normality once the game did kick-off to the hollow ring of an empty stadium as a torrential downpour added to the difficult conditions for the players.
Arsenal manager 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 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.
However, after a bright opening, Arteta was left in no doubt of the work he has ahead to close the gap between his new employers and his old.
Guardiola had voiced his concerns for players’ welfare over the lack of preparation time to get up to full fitness.
But it was Arteta’s plan that was undone by two injuries inside 20 minutes as Granit Xhaka and Pablo Mari hobbled off with Luiz replacing the latter.
As City began to turn the screw, only Bernd Leno in the Arsenal goal kept the score down before half-time.
The German saved brilliantly from David Silva and Riyad Mahrez before Sterling dinked a glorious chance over.
However, the England international made amends when Luiz failed to cut out De Bruyne’s cross and Sterling rifled home his first goal of 2020.
Five minutes into the second-half, Arsenal’s tough task became an impossible one as Luiz pulled down Mahrez inside the box and was shown a red card.
De Bruyne coolly sent Leno the wrong way from the penalty spot to end the game as a contest and both sides then settled to reserve their energies ahead of a gruelling schedule over the next month.
Yet, there was one more serious looking injury to come as City defender Eric Garcia was stretchered from the field after being wiped out by his own goalkeeper Ederson leading to 11 minutes of added time.
City used the extra time to add a third as substitute Foden side-footed home after Sergio Aguero struck the post.
Defeat is another blow for Arsenal’s hopes of a return to the Champions League next season as they remain in ninth, eight points off the top four and five adrift of Manchester United in fifth.
City’s place in next season’s Champions League will depend on the outcome of their appeal against a two-season ban from European competitions to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The appeal was heard last week with a ruling expected early next month.