Manchester City’s Norwegian striker Erling Haaland (R) takes a shot during the English Premier League football match between Nottingham Forest and Manchester City at The City Ground in Nottingham, central England, on February 18, 2023. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP)
Arsenal regained pole position in the Premier League title race on Saturday as the Gunners fought back for a thrilling 4-2 victory at Aston Villa, while Manchester City were held to a damaging 1-1 draw at Nottingham Forest.
Just three days after surrendering first place with a 3-1 defeat against City, Arsenal bounced back in impressive style to move two points clear of the champions.
With just minutes left at Villa Park, Mikel Arteta’s side were in danger of slipping up again in their bid to win the title for the first time since 2004.
Arsenal twice trailed to goals from Ollie Watkins and Philippe Coutinho, only for Bukayo Saka and then Oleksandr Zinchenko to haul them level.
Deep into second half stoppage-time, Arsenal received a helping hand from their former keeper as Emiliano Martinez inadvertantly deflected Jorginho’s shot into his own net after it hit the bar.
Gabriel Martinelli capped Arsenal’s remarkable escape when he tapped into the empty net in the final seconds after Martinez was caught upfield at a Villa corner.
“We are back with more belief than before because you have to turn performances into results,” Arteta said.
“Win in any context. We’ve always talked about that. Today we had a really difficult context, especially with what happened after five minutes.
“The team showed a lot of emotional qualities that are needed. I’m really happy.”
Arsenal’s first victory in five games in all competitions will give them renewed belief they can pip City to the title.
The Gunners, who have a game in hand on the champions, were given a massive boost by their title rivals’ stumble just hours later.
Bernardo Silva put Pep Guardiola’s men ahead four minutes before half-time, taking Jack Grealish’s pass in his stride and drilling a clinical finish past Keylor Navas from 20 yards.
But the tension mounted as City searched for a second goal and Guardiola was booked for manhandling the fourth official after Erling Haaland’s penalty appeal was rejected following Joe Worrall’s challenge.
Profligate City City were undone by their profligacy as Haaland’s drive hit the bar before the Norway star blazed the rebound over.
Haaland missed another chance moments later and Forest made the champions pay with their first shot on target in the 84th minute.
Morgan Gibbs-White fired a low ball across the area and New Zealand striker Chris Wood tapped into an empty net to leave Guardiola stunned.
Everton moved out of the relegation zone with a valuable 1-0 win against fellow strugglers Leeds at Goodison Park.
Seamus Coleman netted in the 64th minute when Everton’s veteran defender hooked over a cross that caught out Leeds keeper Illan Meslier, who left a gap at his near post for the ball to squeeze into the net.