Football: Sterling sinks Arsenal to reignite Man City

Manchester City's Raheem Sterling (centre) celebrates scoring the 2-1 during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester City and Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester, Britain, on Dec 18, 2016.
Manchester City's Raheem Sterling (centre) celebrates scoring the 2-1 during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester City and Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester, Britain, on Dec 18, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom (AFP) - Raheem Sterling struck the winning goal as Manchester City reinvigorated their Premier League challenge by coming from behind to defeat title rivals Arsenal 2-1 on Sunday (Dec 18).

Arsenal took an early lead through Theo Walcott, but just as in Tuesday's 2-1 defeat at Everton, they wilted in the second half as Pep Guardiola's City stormed back at the Etihad Stadium.

Leroy Sane equalised two minutes into the second period before Sterling netted a 71st-minute winner, lifting City above Arsenal into second place, seven points adrift of leaders Chelsea.

"It means a lot to win against one of the best teams in the Premier League. It was a good comeback," said Guardiola.

"I'm really happy the fans stayed until the end. Normally in recent games, with 10 minutes (left) they disappear." Following recent heavy losses to Chelsea and Leicester City, it gave City a first win over a fellow top-six club since their 2-1 success at Manchester United in early September.

Arsenal slipped to fourth, below Liverpool on goal difference, and will be cast further adrift of the leading pack if Jurgen Klopp's men win at Everton in Monday's Merseyside derby.

Having previously gone 14 league games unbeaten, Arsene Wenger's side have now lost successive matches and trail Chelsea by nine points.

Wenger said both of City's goals should have been ruled out for offside, Sane having benefited from a tight call and David Silva having swung a foot at Sterling's shot as it flashed past Petr Cech.

"We conceded two offside goals, which is very difficult to accept in a game of that stature," he said.

"As it is well known, the referees are protected very well, that is right, like the lions in the zoo.

"So we have to live with those decisions." .

City's players walked out wearing shirts bearing the name of team-mate Ilkay Gundogan, who is set to miss the rest of the season after sustaining knee ligament damage in Wednesday's 2-0 win over Watford.

The early evidence suggested their minds were indeed elsewhere as Arsenal took the lead inside five minutes.

An attack prompted by right-back Hector Bellerin culminated in Alexis Sanchez sliding a pass behind Nicolas Otamendi's back to Walcott, who gathered the ball and slipped a low shot past Claudio Bravo.

Walcott, granted acres of space inside the City box, volleyed over the bar and then came within a whisker of doubling Arsenal's lead by heading wide from Nacho Monreal's cross.

Sterling, deployed as a lone striker by Guardiola, came close to instantly cancelling out Walcott's goal when, stretching to meet Kevin De Bruyne's cross, he could only head wide from six yards.

But it was not until Yaya Toure met De Bruyne's corner with a header in first-half stoppage time that visiting goalkeeper Cech had an effort to save.

Guardiola swapped right-backs at half-time, Bacary Sagna coming on for Pablo Zabaleta, but the key change saw De Bruyne move up front, with Sterling switching to the right wing.

City's wingers were at the start and conclusion of their equaliser, Sterling's inward dart enabling Silva to loft a pass over the Arsenal defence for Sane to stroke home his first City goal.

Suddenly it was City strolling past their opponents at will.

De Bruyne released Sane, obliging Cech to charge out and save at his near post, Sterling drilled wide from 25 yards and De Bruyne saw a skidding left-footer palmed behind by Cech.

City took the lead a minute later, De Bruyne catapulting a 50-yard pass wide to Sterling, who cut inside Monreal and lashed a left-foot shot into the bottom-right corner.

De Bruyne came close to adding a third when he directed substitute Jesus Navas's right-wing cross against the near post.

Arsenal's woe was compounded when midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, a reported City target, was forced off by injury just 13 minutes after coming on in place of Alex Iwobi.