Arsenal 2 Manchester City 2: Shkodran Mustafi heads equaliser but Gunners' top-four hopes dealt blow

james olley
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Arsenal's top four hopes were dealt another blow today despite twice coming from behind to draw 2-2 against Manchester City at Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners remain seven points behind fourth-placed City after Theo Walcott and Shkodran Mustafi cancelled out strikes from Leroy Sane and Sergio Aguero.

Arsenal have secured Champions League qualification every year since manager Arsene Wenger took charge in October 1996 but the Frenchman remains under huge pressure to extend that record amid calls for him to step down when his contract expires at the end of the season.

A protest was planned prior to kick-off once again with a small group of fans organising what they term the “No New Contract Movement” in opposition to Wenger being offered a two-year deal by the board.

Leaflets were distributed urging supporters to help crowd-fund further protests and to channel their frustration through social media as team news filtered through from Emirates Stadium nearby, featuring Mesut Ozil’s first start since February 15.

David Ospina deputised for Petr Cech in goal while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was left out with a hamstring problem with Francis Coquelin and Granit Xhaka anchoring Arsenal’s midfield.

Pep Guardiola used winger Jesus Navas at right-back in what was City’s 19th different back four combination from 29 League matches this season but they started the better side and took the lead inside five minutes.

Kevin de Bruyne, operating a deep-lying central midfield role, played a hopeful ball forward and Hector Bellerin was caught flat-footed, allowing Sane to burst through on goal, round Ospina and roll the a simple finish into an unguarded net.

De Bruyne hit the post shortly afterwards as City threatened to run riot but Arsenal managed to steady themselves as the half wore on and equalised shortly before the interval.

The Gunners took a 40th-minute corner short to Sanchez, who delivered a ball into the box. City could only clear their lines as far as Mustafi, who headed it back towards goal and Walcott brought the ball down superbly before holding off Gael Clichy to stab a shot past Willy Caballero.

The goal seemingly revived City’s interest and their response was immediate. De Bruyne’s penetrating run came to a halt but the loose ball fell to David Silva, who fed Aguero in space 16 yards out and the Argentina striker fired low past Ospina.

Arsenal were forced into a change at the interval as Gabriel replaced Laurent Koscielny due to a hamstring injury while City introduced Yaya Toure for Raheem Sterling.

City almost extended their advantage just after the restart as Aguero flashed a header just wide from Navas’ near post cross. Arsenal made them pay with their next attack. Mesut Ozil swung over a corner and Mustafi climbed highest to plant a header into the far corner.

City almost retook the lead when Alexis Sanchez gifted Navas possession inside the box but Aguero could not turn his cross goalwards with sufficient power to beat Caballero.

The game hit a lull thereafter – perhaps as a result of fatigue following the international break or a subconscious desire not to concede a third goal – but City almost gifted the home side a late winner as Otamendi tried to guide a long ball forward to centre-back partner John Stones only to steer it into Ozil’s path.

Cabellero reacted quickly, charging off his line and with Ozil slow into stride, the chance was suddenly gone.

Arsenal were fortunate to escape a strong handball appeal in stoppage time when Nacho Monreal attempted to stop Navas’ charge into the box but both sides were left to settle for a point.

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