Arsenal edged closer to a Champions League place and left Manchester City’s chances of reaching next season’s competition out of their own hands after a 2-2 draw between the two hopefuls at the Etihad. In an entertaining match, in which both showed their quality while also highlighting why the heavyweight duo are challenging only for a place in the top four rather than the title, Arsenal salvaged a point thanks to a superb equalizer from Alexis Sánchez midway through the second half.
That was the second time in the match in which Arsenal had pulled level. Manchester City, just four days after their insipid exit from the Champions League semifinals at the hands of Real Madrid, began the match with real intensity. And they got their reward when Sergio Agüero took advantage of some slack Arsenal defending to beat Petr Cech at his near post.
But City’s own defensive failings reared their head less than two minutes later. The hosts had gone perilously close to conceding an own goal when Gael Clichy headed back onto the outside of his own post. And from the resulting corner they did concede, with Olivier Giroud easily escaping the slack marking of Eliaquim Managala to head in his first Premier League goal for four months.
For much of the contest, City, again missing David Silva and with Yaya Toure only starting on the bench, appeared to have the upper hand. And they got back in front six minutes into the second half. Kevin de Bruyne, one of the City players who was so far below par in Madrid, shrugged off the challenge of Hector Bellerin and drove inside before drilling a low shot toward goal that again saw Cech beaten at his near post.
But again the hosts could not maintain their advantage. Sánchez, who had been largely anonymous to that point, accelerated forward, played the ball into the feet of Giroud and, after receiving a delightful layoff from the France striker, finished with aplomb from Joe Hart.
Toure, Raheem Sterling and Wilfried Bony were soon introduced, and Bony came agonizingly close to grabbing a priceless winner when striking a volley straight against the crossbar with three minutes remaining. But that was to be City's last opening.
Manuel Pellegrini was greeted with warm farewell banners before kickoff, but his final home match in charge of the club ended with supporters anxiously biting their nails as the potential consequences of the two dropped points set in.
City still trail third-placed Arsenal by three points, but neighbors Manchester United are now just two points back with a game in hand. If United win at West Ham on Tuesday then it will be Louis van Gaal’s side who go into next week’s final round of fixtures with a Champions League place in their own hands.
It was not a wholly satisfying day for Arsenal, who also lost Danny Welbeck to a knee injury in the first half. A victory would have secured Arsenal of a Champions League place and taken them level on points with second-placed Tottenham. Still, a point was far more useful to Arsene Wenger’s side, who now just need a point at home to Aston Villa on the final day to be sure of a top-four berth. City now must nervously watch on to see what their neighbors do on Tuesday before trying to win at Swansea City next Sunday.