Arsenal’s David Luiz was sent off in a performance riddled with mistakes as Manchester City secured a comfortable victory behind closed doors on the first night of the Premier League’s return.
Luiz, who came on as a first-half substitute, failed to clear the ball just before half-time and Raheem Sterling fired in City’s opener.
The defender was then sent off after pulling back Riyad Mahrez in the second half to give away a penalty, which Kevin de Bruyne coolly slotted in for City’s second.
Substitute Phil Foden netted a third for the defending champions, capitalising on a rebound from Sergio Aguero’s strike.
There was concern for City late on as Eric Garcia needed several minutes of treatment on the pitch after a nasty collision with goalkeeper Ederson, and was carried off on a stretcher.
Arsenal were second best throughout as manager Mikel Arteta left Alexandre Lacazette on the bench and Mesut Ozil was kept out of the extended 20-man squad.
There were bursts of energy from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Eddie Nketiah going forward in the first half but it was City who were more dangerous.
De Bruyne, Sterling and David Silva were all denied by Arsenal keeper Bernd Leno, who produced an impressive display, but it seemed inevitable City would move ahead when Luiz’s mistake gifted Sterling a chance from close range.
Victory for Pep Guardiola’s side means league leaders Liverpool remain six points away from winning the title – writing off any potential celebrations in Sunday’s Merseyside derby.
On an evening in which thousands tuned in to watch a new-look Premier League on their TV screens, players from both clubs used their platform to support the Black Lives Matter movement for racial equality.
All players and staff took a knee immediately before kick-off, mirroring the actions of those at Villa Park in the earlier match, and the words ‘Black Lives Matter’ replaced players’ names on the back of their shirts.
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Luiz hoping to restart… again
After being left out of the starting line-up by Arteta, Luiz was handed his chance when he was brought on in the 23rd minute as Arsenal suffered their second injury of the match.
Pablo Mari, making just his second Premier League start for the club, followed Granit Xhaka, who was taken off on a stretcher early on.
But Luiz, prone to questionable decision-making, only confirmed his manager’s decision to leave him out initially had been for the best.
Failure to clear the ball properly led to Sterling’s opener – the ball bouncing off Luiz’s knee from De Bruyne’s pass, landing straight into the path of the City forward.
And Luiz completed a dreadful night four minutes into the second half when he tugged Mahrez’s shirt with no intention to play the ball, giving away a penalty and receiving a red card.
De Bruyne reminds us of his quality
Some things were different on the league’s return.
Fans were absent, players wore face masks in the dugout, there was enhanced crowd noise for television viewers and managers did post-match press conferences via Zoom.
But some things remained the same. De Bruyne was the best player on the pitch.
The Manchester City midfielder, widely regarded as one of the best in the business, reminded those watching at home of his quality with several intricate passes in the first half.
He forced the first save of the match from Leno with a curling free-kick in the first three minutes and two of his defence-splitting passes again tested the keeper’s reactions half an hour later.
It was ironic one of his poorer passes would lead to Sterling’s opener – helped by Luiz’s poor control – but De Bruyne stamped his mark on the game even further by scoring City’s second from the spot.
He needed only 69 minutes to whet the appetite of those who feared football would not be the same on its return.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, speaking to Sky Sports: “We are really concerned [about Eric Garcia]. He responded quite well but we have to wait. He is conscious which is a good sign. We will make another test.
“In the beginning it was a lot of energy. Everybody wanted the ball. It was not quiet. We had chances. It was important to score before half time. I am happy with the performance of the team.”
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta, speaking to Sky Sports: “Everything went wrong from the first minute. Every possible accident that could have happened hopefully happened today.
“[David Luiz] is someone that is very honest and straight forward. My opinion on David Luiz hasn’t changed. It won’t change because he had a difficult performance tonight.
On leaving Mesut Ozil out of the squad: “It was a tactical reason.”
Player of the match – Kevin de Bruyne
Sterling hits 50 – the best of the stats
- Manchester City have won their past seven matches against Arsenal in all competitions, extending their best ever winning run against the Gunners.
- Arsenal have lost by three or more goals both home and away in a league season versus an opponent (Man City in 2019-20) for the first time since 1969-70, against Chelsea.
- Arsenal are winless in their past 26 Premier League away games against fellow ‘big six’ opposition (D10 L16), with their last such victory coming at Etihad Stadium in January 2015 (2-0).
- Kevin de Bruyne has been directly involved in more Premier League goals than any other player this season (25 – nine goals and 16 assists) – it’s also his best goal involvement tally in a single top-flight campaign in England.
- Raheem Sterling became the first player to score a goal in the month of June in the English top-flight since Walter Rickett, for Sheffield United against Stoke on 14 June, 1947.
- Sterling also scored in his 50th home club game in all competitions – he’s never been on the losing side in those fixtures for Liverpool and Manchester City (W47 D3).
- David Luiz became the first player to be sent off, concede a penalty and commit an error leading to an opposition goal in a Premier League match since Carl Jenkinson for West Ham against Bournemouth in August 2015.
- He has conceded four penalties in the Premier League this season – the joint-most in a single campaign in the competition’s history (also Jose Fonte 2016-17, Gary Caldwell 2011-12, Ibrahima Sonko 2007-08, Claus Lundekvam 1999-00, Ken Monkou 1993-94 and Luc Nijholt 1993-94).